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Kai Ihnken, M.D.

Kai Ihnken, M.D.

Associate Professor of Surgery
Division of Adult Cardiothoracic Surgery

Contact Information

Academic Office:
500 Parnassus Ave, MUW 405, Box 0118
San Francisco, CA 94143
tel: 415-353-8890
fax: 415-353-4716
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  • Justus Liebig University, Giessen Germany, Summa cum laude, M.D.
  • Jul 2001 – Jul 2004 Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Jun 1997 – Jun 2001 Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, Department of Surgery
  • Feb 1995 – Feb 1996 Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany, Department of Cardiovascular Surgery
  • Jan 1994 – Jan 1995/ J. W. Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
  • Jun 1989 – Sep 1991 Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • 2014-2015 Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, Thoracic Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support
  • American Board of Thoracic Surgery, Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery
  • Acute Aortic Dissection Repair
  • Aortic Valve Repair & Replacement
  • Arrhythmia
  • Arterial Coronary Artery Revascularization
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG)
  • ECMO
  • End Stage Heart Failure
  • Heart Transplantation
  • Long and Short Term Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD)
  • Minimally Invasive Arrhythmia Ablation
  • Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery
  • Minimally Invasive Valve Surgery
  • Mitral Valve Repair & Replacement
  • Myocardial Revascularization Surgery
  • Off-Pump Coronary Artery Bypass (OBCAB)
  • Thoracic Aneurysm Repair
  • Thoracic Aortic Reconstruction
  • Ventricular Aneurysm
  • Hypoxia/reoxygenation injury in the immature heart
  • Ischemia/reperfusion injury in skeletal muscle and the myocardium
  • German

Dr. Kai Ihnken is cardiac and heart transplant surgeon who specializes in advanced state-of-the-art surgical therapies for heart failure. 

Dr. Ihnken received his medical degree from Justus Liebig University, Giessen Germany with Summa cum laude. During Medical school he investigated the relationship of coronary artery disease and fibrinolysis at the Max-Planck-Institution. His doctoral thesis was awarded with the highest honor. Subsequently, he completed residencies at J.W. Goethe University and Albert-Ludwigs University in Germany and Stanford University in the United States. Additionally, he completed a research fellowship at UCLA and a cardiothoracic transplant/mechanical circulatory support fellowship at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. 

Dr. Ihnken was previously the Surgical Director for Heart Transplantation, Heart Failure, Mechanical Circulatory Support and ECMO at Providence Health in Spokane, WA. He was on the faculty at Stanford University from 2005 to 2011 and has held a number of leadership positions. 

Dr. Ihnken has won numerous awards including the Patient's Choice Award, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, Customer service Awards, California State Recognition, Young Investigator Awards, as well as multiple other research awards. He has served or serves as a manuscript reviewer for multiple national and international journals in the area of cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery including JTS, ATS, JACC and is a current or previous member of numerous international cardiothoracic and transplant societies including ISHLT, STS, AHA.

  • The compassionate Doctor Award,, 2011
  • Customer Service Award, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, 2008
  • Customer Service Award, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, 2007
  • Certificate of Recognition, California State Senate, 2006
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, Stanford University, 2001
  • Ernst-Derra-Price, Annual award for most outstanding research, German Association of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, 1997
  • Young Investigators Award, American College of Angiology, 1995
  • Dos Santos Award, European Society for Cardiovascular Surgery, 1994
  • Young Investigators Award, American College of Angiology, 1993
  • Young Investigators Award, American Heart Association, 1992
  • Doctoral thesis (magna cum laude), Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, 1991
  • Medical school graduation (summa cum laude), Justus-Liebig University, 1989
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Dr. Ihnken's research focus is on ischemia/reperfusion injury in skeletal muscle and the myocardium, as well as hypoxia/reoxygenation injury in the immature heart. His breakthrough research has resulted in a number of clinical firsts including:

  • First clinical application of controlled limb reperfusion in North America
  • First worldwide application of controlled limb reperfusion
  • First description of normoxic cardiopulmonary bypass.
  • First description of "Controlled reoxygenation" to prevent reoxygenation injury
  • First description and clinical application of simultaneous antegrade and/retrograde cardioplegic delivery 


Most recent publications from a total of 58
  1. Woodard GA, Lee H, Fels Elliott DR, Jones KD, Wong J, Jablons DM, Ihnken K. Case report: recurrent metastatic breast cancer in internal mammary dissection bed discovered at the time of coronary bypass. J Cardiothorac Surg. 2019 Sep 05; 14(1):158. View in PubMed
  2. Ihnken KA, Ramzy D, Esmailian F, Trento A, Arabía FA. Surgical Technique to Facilitate Explantation of Mechanical Circulatory Support Devices: LVADs, BiVADs, and TAHs Before Heart Transplantation. ASAIO J. 2016 Mar-Apr; 62(2):211-3. View in PubMed
  3. Reich H, Ramzy D, Czer L, Esmailian F, Moriguchi J, Ihnken K, Yusufali T, D'Attellis N, Arabia F, Annamalai A. Hemodynamic Consequences of Laparoscopy for Patients on Mechanical Circulatory Support. J Laparoendosc Adv Surg Tech A. 2015 Dec; 25(12):999-1004. View in PubMed
  4. Ruzza A, Czer LS, Ihnken KA, Sasevich M, Trento A, Ramzy D, Esmailian F, Moriguchi J, Kobashigawa J, Arabia F. Combined heart-kidney transplantation after total artificial heart insertion. Transplant Proc. 2015 Jan-Feb; 47(1):210-2. View in PubMed
  5. Singh SK, Ihnken KA. Intraoperative fluorescence angiography to identify and confirm repair of intramyocardial left anterior descending coronary artery aneurysm. Ann Thorac Surg. 2010 Oct; 90(4):e62. View in PubMed
  6. Timek T, Ihnken K. Surgical therapy for heart failure. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2007 Mar; 5(2):251-63. View in PubMed
  7. Verhoye JP, Sze DY, Ihnken K, Hellinger JC, Robbins RR, Dake MD. Virtual angioscopy in type-A dissection: ascending aortic stent-graft repair. Ann Thorac Surg. 2006 Jul; 82(1):347. View in PubMed
  8. Ihnken K, Fann JI, Burdon TA, Johnson FL, Kosek JC, Shumway NE. Chronic mitral valve rejection requiring replacement in a nine-year-old allograft. Ann Thorac Surg. 2005 Nov; 80(5):1909-11. View in PubMed
  9. Verhoye JP, Levin JM, Ihnken K, Miller DC. Computed tomography angiographic demonstration of a ventricular septal defect. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2004 Nov; 26(5):1037. View in PubMed
  10. van der Starre P, Guta C, Dake M, Ihnken K, Robbins R. The value of transesophageal echocardiography for endovascular graft stenting of the ascending aorta. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2004 Aug; 18(4):466-8. View in PubMed
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