Surgeons at Royal Berkshire Hospital saved the life of 80-year-old widow Doreen Carter using a specially adapted catheter in the early hours of last Thursday.
For patients recovering in intensive care and unable to take blood-
thinning medication following major surgery or a serious accident, a pulmonary embolism - a blockage of the main artery of the lung - until now would often prove fatal.
Research nurse Ellen Bowley, part of the team that carried out the procedure last week, said: "There is nothing like this, it is very exciting, and it could save thousands of lives."
The adapted catheter - which has titanium needles - was developed by Luis F. Angel in Texas and it has been on trial in test conditions in the United States. The Royal Berks, in Reading, was the first hospital to use it in an emergency situation.
Ms Bowley said: "The catheter is inserted through the groin and goes up the vein into the venae cavae. The titanium needles on the end of it then open up like an umbrella and act as a fishing net to catch the blood clots."
She added: "These lines get put in within a few hours of a patient being admitted to ICU [intensive care unit]. "
The device can be left in place for up to 30 days but on Monday, Mrs Carter was already sitting up in a bedside chair and chatting to doctors who were preparing to remove it that afternoon.
Mrs Carter, who has one daughter, Susan, said: "The procedure is mindblowing. I am very pleased, the doctors and nurses have all been wonderful and it is just marvellous that I am the first person."
Asked how she was feeling, Mrs Carter replied: "Not bad at all."
Intensive care consultant Carl Waldmann said: "Previously, we had to weigh up the risks of using blood thinning drugs or taking the patient down to the
X-Ray department to insert a filter to stop clots, but this filter proved very hard to retrieve and the department could be quite far away. This procedure only takes 10-15 minutes and it is very much a preferable alternative."