Baroness Jay, the health minister, instructed the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, to launch the inquiry. She is especially worried about claims that women are not given proper advice about the risks of silicone implants before their surgery.
The BBC1 Watchdog Healthcheck programme last night highlighted the plight of women suffering from silicone implanted in breasts, cheeks, chins and lips. In some cases silicone was said to move around the body after implants ruptured.
One woman, Margo Cameron, was told the only way to remove the silicone in her lips was by amputation. Her lips were having to be completely removed and rebuilt, using the lining of her cheeks.
"I will be permanently disfigured," she told the programme. "I will not be able to eat solid foods for six months. I will not be able to talk properly, and I am very scared."
Mairi Johnston, a woman who had two sets of implants, claimed she was unable to convince doctors that they had made her severely ill.
Yesterday's government move came after a meeting between Baroness Jay, the Medical Devices Agency, which issues guidelines on breast implants as well as on prosthetic limbs, and Dr Radford Shanklin, an American expert who has warned of the risks of silicone implants and who took part in the programme. Dr Shanklin is challenging British medical opinion which holds that silicone is safe.
A survey by Watchdog Healthcheck of 200 women who had voiced concerns about their implants showed that 73 per cent were not warned of the dangers before their operation.Reuse content