The Morel-Lavallée lesion: pathophysiology, clinical presentation, imaging features, and treatment options

Emerg Radiol. 2014 Feb;21(1):35-43. doi: 10.1007/s10140-013-1151-7. Epub 2013 Aug 16.


Morel-Lavallée lesions are posttraumatic hemolymphatic collections related to shearing injury and disruption of interfascial planes between subcutaneous soft tissue and muscle. We review the pathophysiology of Morel-Lavallée lesions, clinical presentation, and potential sites of involvement. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the modality of choice for characterization. We present the MRI classification and highlight the key imaging features that distinguish the different types, focusing on the three most common: seroma, subacute hematoma, and chronic organizing hematoma. Potential mimics of Morel-Lavallée lesions, such as soft tissue sarcoma and hemorrhagic prepatellar bursitis, are compared and contrasted. Treatment options and a management algorithm are also briefly discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Soft Tissue Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Soft Tissue Injuries* / physiopathology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries* / therapy