Linda Evangelista Says She Has 'Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia' from CoolSculpting: a Doctor Explains

The supermodel said she’s "permanently deformed" from the fat freezing procedure, and has filed a lawsuit against CoolSculpting's parent company

For the last five years, Linda Evangelista has been suffering from a rare health condition that she alleges was caused by a fat-freezing procedure called CoolSculpting.

The 56-year-old supermodel said that she is "permanently deformed" and suffering from paradoxical adipose hyperplasia or PAH, a rare condition where an attempt at fat-freezing either results in fat enlargement, or excessive fat destruction that leaves a cavity in the body.

Evangelista wrote in an Instagram post that she stepped away from the spotlight after she was "brutally disfigured" from CoolSculpting, which she claimed "increased, not decreased, my fat cells." In a lawsuit filed against Zeltiq Aesthetics, the parent company of CoolSculpting, she said she "developed "hard, bulging, painful masses under her skin" in the areas where she had the procedure done — her "abdomen, flanks, back and bra area, inner thighs, and chin."

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PEOPLE has contacted Evangelista and Zeltiq Aesthetics for comment.

Linda Evangelista
Linda Evangelista in 2015. Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

CoolSculpting is one of the most well-known makers of fat-freezing machines, which are FDA approved "and may have a role in treating disagreeable areas," Dr. Alan Matarasso, clinical professor of surgery at Hofstra University and past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, tells PEOPLE. "However," he adds, "it does carry risk, and this is an unfortunate example of that risk."

Fat-freezing procedures use cryotherapy to break down and kill fat cells. But in rare cases, there can "either be too much enlargement or too much reduction," Matarasso says.

For some people, that can be painful psychologically, "when you take someone who had this procedure and already didn't like this area of their body and they come out of it bigger," he says. That was allegedly the case for Evangelista, who claimed in her lawsuit that she now has "severe anxiety and agoraphobia" and had to withdraw from work engagements.

"PAH has not only destroyed my livelihood, it has sent me into a cycle of deep depression, profound sadness and the lowest depths of self-loathing," she said in her Instagram post.

Echoing claims made in her complaint, Evangelista also said that she underwent "two painful, unsuccessful, corrective surgeries" in an attempt to fix her PAH. Matarasso says that it can't always be corrected.

"It depends on the area and the nature of what went wrong, to see if it can be liposuctioned out," he says. "There's usually two things that can be done — one is cutting it out and the other is sucking it out, and hopefully it can be made better."

PAH is the biggest risk of undergoing fat-freezing, Matarasso says, though the most common problem with the procedure is that people "don't achieve any results."

For patients interested in undergoing fat-freezing, they should "seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon, because they can discuss all the available options and determine what works best for you," Matarasso says.

"Coolsculpting has a role, it has complications like anything, but most people would agree that for areas that are stubborn or resistant to diet and exercise, liposuction performed by a board-certified member is the gold standard," he says.

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