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Localized Fibrosing Disorders - Linear Scleroderma, Morphea, and Regional Fibrosis Treatment & Management

  • Author: Mariana J Kaplan, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 16, 2015

Medical Care

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  • Most patients with plaque morphea experience spontaneous remission and require no specific treatment. Treatment depends entirely on the severity of the findings. Intralesional injections of corticosteroids might be helpful in early stages.
    • The progression of Dupuytren contracture varies, ranging from little or no change over many years to rapid progression and complete flexion contracture of one or more digits.
    • The treatment of mediastinal and retroperitoneal fibrosis has not been well studied, although corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents, and tamoxifen appear to be effective.
  • If the lesions spread (as in generalized morphea), anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive medications may be indicated.
  • Although numerous therapeutic agents have been used for morphea, treatment remains unsatisfactory.
  • Daily antimalarial agents may be beneficial, especially when lesions are highly inflammatory.
  • In linear scleroderma and deep morphea, aggressive treatment, including systemic corticosteroids, may be necessary. Topical corticosteroids may also be useful.
  • Occasionally, other disease-modifying agents, including d-penicillamine, azathioprine, sulfasalazine, methotrexate, and cyclophosphamide, are necessary to control a severe inflammatory process.
  • Plasmapheresis may be useful in some patients, but no randomized controlled trials have been published.
  • Reports indicate that patients with severe localized scleroderma have been treated successfully with psoralen plus ultraviolet light of the A wave length (PUVA) bath photochemotherapy.[1]
    • Low-dose UVA1 phototherapy can be highly effective for sclerotic plaques, even in patients with advanced localized fibrosing disorders with rapidly evolving lesions despite conventional therapy.
    • Patients are usually irradiated with 20 J/cm2 UVA1 for 12 weeks, with a cumulative UVA1 dose of 600 J/cm2.
  • A recent study reported that occlusive treatment with tacrolimus ointment can be useful in localized scleroderma.[2] Imiquimod has also been suggested as a potential treatment for morphea and fibromatoses, but more studies are needed.[3]

Surgical Care

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  • Tendon-lengthening procedures and surgical release of joint contractures are sometimes necessary.
  • Amputation may be necessary as a consequence of severe flexural deformity.
  • Often, patients with en coup de sabre or Parry-Romberg syndrome require surgical reconstruction of the face and scalp.
  • Reports indicate that en coup de sabre lesions have been repaired effectively with a combination of an expanded skin flap and a hydroxyapatite implant.
  • When actual contractures occur in Dupuytren contracture, surgical intervention is desirable. Limited fasciotomy is effective in most instances. More radical procedures, including amputation, are necessary in rare cases. Palmar fasciotomy is a useful and more benign procedure. Surgical management is often required to treat the complications of both retroperitoneal and mediastinal fibrosis.


See the list below:

  • Patients with the linear and deep types of morphea require physical therapy to prevent joint deformities and skin contractures. Heat treatment and massage might be helpful.
  • Psychotherapy for people with deformities and disfiguration is very important.
  • Early evaluation by a reconstructive or plastic surgeon is important for patients with en coup de sabre lesions or Parry-Romberg disease.
  • Evaluation by a hand surgeon may be indicated in patients with Dupuytren contracture for consideration of releasing the contractures.
  • Surgical consultation may be considered in patients with mediastinal and retroperitoneal fibrosis if obstructive lesions occur.


See the list below:

  • Physical therapy is very important for patients prone to develop joint and muscle contractures and deformities. Joint mobility should be maintained.
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Mariana J Kaplan, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Michigan Medical School

Mariana J Kaplan, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Immunologists, American Federation for Medical Research, Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research, Clinical Immunology Society, American College of Rheumatology, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Lawrence H Brent, MD Associate Professor of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University; Chair, Program Director, Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Albert Einstein Medical Center

Lawrence H Brent, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of Immunologists, American College of Physicians, American College of Rheumatology

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: Janssen<br/>Serve(d) as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: Abbvie; Genentech; Pfizer; Questcor.

Chief Editor

Herbert S Diamond, MD Visiting Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center; Chairman Emeritus, Department of Internal Medicine, Western Pennsylvania Hospital

Herbert S Diamond, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians, American College of Rheumatology, American Medical Association, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Kristine M Lohr, MD, MS Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Interim Chief, Division of Rheumatology, Director, Rheumatology Training Program, University of Kentucky College of Medicine

Kristine M Lohr, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, American College of Rheumatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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This photograph shows morphea en plaque on the trunk of a patient. There is a distinctive border separating the plaque from the surrounding normal skin (reproduced with permission of Mayo Clinic Proceedings).
This photograph shows generalized morphea on the trunk of a patient (reproduced with permission from Mayo Clinic Proceedings).
CT scan of the abdomen showing the typical paraaortic mass of retroperitoneal fibrosis.
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