The Morel-Lavallée lesion and its management: A review of the literature

J Orthop. 2018 Aug 28;15(4):917-921. doi: 10.1016/j.jor.2018.08.032. eCollection 2018 Dec.


Background: Morel-Lavallée lesions can occur in polytrauma patients. Post-operative seroma is more frequently encountered, holds many pathological similarities with MLLs and continues to challenge plastic surgeons. We aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of MLLs to increase awareness of optimum treatment options amongst plastic surgery teams, and to provide a management algorithm that may also be applied to post-operative seromas.

Methods: PubMed, Google Scholar and the Cochrane Library were searched using the terms "Morel-Lavallée", "management" and "treatment", which yielded 52 results. One reviewer screened titles and abstracts for relevance. Seventeen full text articles were retrieved. Review of reference lists provided a further three articles for inclusion.

Findings: Morel-Lavallée lesions (MLLs) represent closed injuries with internal degloving of superficial soft tissues from fascial layers. Main causes of MLLs include high-energy, blunt force trauma or crush injuries. They are commonly found overlying the greater trochanter. MLLs should be actively looked for when treating patients with pelvic trauma. MRI is the investigation of choice. Currently no guidelines for the management of MLLs exist. Compression bandaging, percutaneous aspiration, sclerodesis and mass resection have all been utilised.

Conclusions: Our algorithm recommends avoidance of conservative management. For chronic lesions, percutaneous aspiration should not be used in isolation. Sclerodesis using doxycycline is appropriate for lesions up to 400 ml, where evidence suggests high degrees of efficacy. Larger lesions should be treated with open surgery. Quilting sutures, curettage and low suction drains are useful adjuncts. We hypothesise this algorithm would also be effective for post-operative seromas.

Keywords: Internal degloving; Morel-Lavallée; Post-operative seroma; Post-traumatic extravasations.

Publication types

  • Review