The health ministry has confirmed that women in Belgium have been fitted with a total of at least 674 potentially faulty breast implants made by the now defunct French firm PIP.
About 300,000 women in 65 countries are estimated to have received implants made by PIP, which allegedly used an illegal industrial-grade gel that investigators say has led to abnormally high rates of ruptured implants.
Health authorities in Belgium had previously stated that around 100 women had PIP implants. Four of them have had them removed since the beginning of December while a fifth woman plans to do so.
On December 23, Belgian authorities advised women with implants from Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) to go for a check-up and have them removed if there was any sign of seepage or rupture.
The Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products estimates that "at least 674 PIP implants" had been given to women in Belgium, the health ministry said in a statement, adding that it could not guarantee the accuracy of the figure or indicate the nationality of the patients.
The ministry said that all necessary implant removals would be covered by the social security system, but a replacement implant would only be provided for free if the original operation was also paid for out of the public purse.
This system would, broadly, reimburse women who had reconstructive surgery after cancer but not most of those who had cosmetic surgery.