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Dr. Kai Ihnken is a cardiothoracic surgeon who specializes in all forms of advanced surgical therapies for heart failure, including heart transplantation, artificial hearts and short- and long-term mechanical assist devices. He also specializes in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a treatment that uses a pump outside the body to circulate blood in patients with serious heart or lung conditions. In addition, he performs aortic surgery, repair and replacement surgeries for the mitral and aortic valves, and minimally invasive procedures.

Ihnken's research interests include reperfusion injury in skeletal muscle (muscles that move the body) and the myocardium (the heart's muscle tissue); reperfusion injury is tissue damage that occurs when blood returns to muscle after a period of oxygen deprivation. He is also interested in consequences to the developing heart from hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) and reperfusion injury.

Ihnken earned his medical degree from Justus Liebig University Giessen in Germany, where he graduated summa cum laude. He then completed residencies in surgery at Goethe University Frankfurt and Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg. He also completed a residency in surgery and a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford University. Finally, he completed a fellowship in thoracic organ transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Before joining UCSF, Ihnken served as surgical director for heart transplantation, heart failure and mechanical circulatory support at Providence Health & Services in Spokane, Washington. He has won numerous awards during his career and has served as a manuscript reviewer for multiple national and international journals of cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery.

  • Education

    Justus Liebig University, 1989

  • Residencies

    Goethe University, Surgery, 1991

    Albert Ludwigs University, Surgery, 1996

    Stanford University, Surgery, 2001

  • Fellowships

    Stanford University, Cardiothoracic Surgery, 2004

    Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Thoracic Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support, 2015