The kidneys are bean-shaped excretory organs in vertebrates. Part of the urinary system, the kidneys filter wastes (especially urea) from the blood and excrete them, along with water, as urine. The medical field that studies the kidneys and diseases affecting the kidney is called nephrology, from the Greek name for kidney; the adjective meaning "kidney-related" is renal, from Latin.
In humans, the kidneys are located in the posterior part of the abdomen. There is one on each side of the spine; the right kidney sits just below the liver, the left below the diaphragm and adjacent to the spleen. Above each kidney is an adrenal gland (also called the suprarenal gland). The asymmetry within the abdominal cavity caused by the liver results in the right kidney to be slightly lower than the left one.
The kidneys are retroperitoneal, which means they lie behind the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity. They are approximately at the vertebral level T12 to L3, and the right kidney usually lies slightly lower than the left in order to accommodate the liver. The upper parts of the kidneys are partially protected by the eleventh and twelfth ribs, and each whole kidney is surrounded by two layers of fat (the perirenal fat and the pararenal fat) which help to cushion it. In very rare cases, it is possible to have developed three kidneys.
- 1 Organization
- 2 Blood supply
- 3 Nephron
- 4 Collecting duct system
- 5 Functions
- 6 Terms
- 7 Diseases and disorders
- 8 Stages of kidney disease
- 9 Dialysis and kidney transplants
- 10 Medical terminology
- 11 See also
In a normal human adult, each kidney is about 11 cm long and about 5 cm thick, weighing 150 grams. Kidneys weigh about 0.5 percent of a person's total body weight. The kidneys are "bean-shaped" organs, and have a concave side facing inwards (medially). On this medial aspect of each kidney is an opening, called the hilum, which admits the renal artery, the renal vein, nerves, and the ureter.
The outer portion of the kidney is called the renal cortex, which sits directly beneath the kidney's loose connective tissue/fibrous capsule. Deep to the cortex lies the renal medulla, which is divided into 10-20 renal pyramids in humans. Each pyramid together with the associated overlying cortex forms a renal lobe. The tip of each pyramid (called a papilla) empties into a calyx, and the calyces empty into the renal pelvis. The pelvis transmits urine to the urinary bladder via the ureter.
Each kidney receives its blood supply from the renal artery, two of which branch from the abdominal aorta. Upon entering the hilum of the kidney, the renal artery divides into smaller interlobar arteries situated between the renal papillae. At the outer medulla, the interlobar arteries branch into arcuate arteries, which course along the border between the renal medulla and cortex, giving off still smaller branches, the cortical radial arteries (sometimes called interlobular arteries). Branching off these cortical arteries are the afferent arterioles supplying the glomerular capillaries, which drain into efferent arterioles. Efferent arterioles divide into peritubular capillaries that provide an extensive blood supply to the cortex. Blood from these capillaries collects in renal venules and leaves the kidney via the renal vein. Efferent arterioles of glomeruli closest to the medulla (those that belong to juxtamedullary nephrons) send branches into the medulla, forming the vasa recta. Blood supply is intimately linked to blood pressure.
The basic functional unit of the kidney is the nephron, of which there are more than a million within the cortex and medulla of each normal adult human kidney. Nephrons regulate water and soluble matter (especially electrolytes) in the body by first filtering the blood under pressure, and then reabsorbing some necessary fluid and molecules back into the blood while secreting other, unneeded molecules. Reabsorption and secretion are accomplished with both cotransport and countertransport mechanisms established in the nephrons and associated collecting ducts.
Collecting duct system
The fluid flows from the nephron into the collecting duct system. This segment of the nephron is crucial to the process of water conservation by the organism. In the presence of antidiuretic hormone (ADH; also called vasopressin), these ducts become permeable to water and facilitate its reabsorption, thus concentrating the urine and reducing its volume. Conversely, when the organism must eliminate excess water, such as after excess fluid drinking, the production of ADH is decreased and the collecting tubule becomes less permeable to water, rendering urine dilute and abundant. Failure of the organism to decrease ADH production appropriately may lead to water retention and dangerous dilution of body fluids, which in turn may cause severe neurological damage. Failure to produce ADH (or inability of the collecting ducts to respond to it) may cause excessive urination, called diabetes insipidus.
The kidneys are sophisticated reprocessing machines. Every day, your kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to sift out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water. The waste and extra water become urine, which flows to your bladder through tubes called ureters. Your bladder stores urine until you go to the bathroom.
The wastes in your blood come from the normal breakdown of active tissues and from the food you eat. Your body uses the food for energy and self-repair. After your body has taken what it needs from the food, waste is sent to the blood. If your kidneys did not remove these wastes, the wastes would build up in the blood and damage your body.
The actual filtering occurs in tiny units inside your kidneys called nephrons. Every kidney has about a million nephrons. In the nephron, a glomerulus—which is a tiny blood vessel, or capillary—intertwines with a tiny urine-collecting tube called a tubule. A complicated chemical exchange takes place, as waste materials and water leave your blood and enter your urinary system.
At first, the tubules receive a combination of waste materials and chemicals that your body can still use. Your kidneys measure out chemicals like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium and release them back to the blood to return to the body. In this way, your kidneys regulate the body’s level of these substances. The right balance is necessary for life, but excess levels can be harmful.
In the nephron, tiny blood vessels intertwine with urine-collecting tubes. Each kidney contains about 1 million nephrons.
In addition to removing wastes, your kidneys release three important hormones:
erythropoietin (eh-RITH-ro-POY-eh-tin), or EPO, which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells
renin (REE-nin), which regulates blood pressure
calcitriol (kal-suh-TRY-ul), the active form of vitamin D, which helps maintain calcium for bones and for normal chemical balance in the body
Excretion of waste products
The kidneys regulate the pH, mineral ion concentration, and water composition of the blood.
The pH is maintained through four main protein transporters: NHE3 (a sodium-hydrogen exchanger), V-type H-ATPase (an isoform of the hydrogen ATPase), NBC1 (a sodium-bicarbonate cotransporter) and AE1 (an anion exchanger which exchanges chloride for bicarbonate). Due to the polar alignment of cells in the renal epithelia NHE3 and the H-ATPase are exposed to the lumen (which is essentially outside the body), on the apical side of the cells, and are responsible for excreting hydrogen ions (or protons). Conversely, NBC1 and AE1 are on the basolateral side of the cells, and allow bicarbonate ions to move back into the extracellular fluid and thus are returned to the blood plasma.
Sodium ions are controlled in a homeostatic process involving aldosterone which increases sodium ion absorption in the distal convoluted tubules.
When blood pressure becomes low, a hormone called Renin is secreted by cells of the juxtaglomerular apparatus (part of the distal convoluted tubule) which are sensitive to pressure. Renin acts on a blood protein, angiotensinogen, converting it to angiotensin. Angiotensin stimulates the secretion of Aldosterone by the adrenal cortex, which affects the kidney tubules.
Aldosterone stimulates an increase in the reabsorption of sodium ions from the kidney tubules which causes an increase in the volume of water that is reabsorbed from the tubule. This increase in water reabsorption increases the volume of blood which ultimately raises the blood pressure.
Any rise or drop in blood osmotic pressure due to a lack or excess of water is detected by the hypothalamus, which notifies the pituitary gland via negative feedback. A lack of water causes the posterior pituitary gland to secrete antidiuretic hormone, which results in water reabsorption and an increase in urine concentration. Tissue fluid concentration thus returns to a mean of 98%.
- renal capsule: The membranous covering of the kidney.
- cortex: The outer layer over the internal medulla. It contains blood vessels, glomeruli (which are the kidneys' "filters") and urine tubes and is supported by a fibrous matrix.
- hilus: The opening in the middle of the concave medial border for nerves and blood vessels to pass into the renal sinus.
- renal column: The structures which support the cortex. They consist of lines of blood vessels and urinary tubes and a fibrous material.
- renal sinus: The cavity which houses the renal pyramids.
- calyces: The recesses in the internal medulla which hold the pyramids. They are used to subdivide the sections of the kidney. (singular - calyx)
- papillae: The small conical projections along the wall of the renal sinus. They have openings through which urine passes into the calyces. (singular - papilla)
- renal pyramids: The conical segments within the internal medulla. They contain the secreting apparatus and tubules and are also called malpighian pyramids.
- renal artery: Two renal arteries come from the aorta, each connecting to a kidney. The artery divides into five branches, each of which leads to a ball of capillaries. The arteries supply (unfiltered) blood to the kidneys. The left kidney receives about 60% of the renal bloodflow.
- renal vein: The filtered blood returns to circulation through the renal veins which join into the inferior vena cava.
- renal pelvis: Basically just a funnel, the renal pelvis accepts the urine and channels it out of the hilus into the ureter.
- ureter: A narrow tube 40 cm long and 4 mm in diameter. Passing from the renal pelvis out of the hilus and down to the bladder. The ureter carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder by means of peristalsis.
Diseases and disorders
- Congenital hydronephrosis
- Congenital obstruction of urinary tract
- Duplicated ureter
- Horseshoe kidney
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Renal dysplasia
- Unilateral small kidney
- Azotemia is a toxic condition characterized by abnormal and dangerously high levels of urea, creatinine, various body waste compounds, and other nitrogen-rich compounds in the blood.
- Diabetic nephropathy
- Hydronephrosis is the enlargement of one or both of the kidneys caused by obstruction of the flow of urine.
- Interstitial nephritis
- Kidney stones are a relatively common and particularly painful disorder.
- Kidney tumors
- Lupus nephritis
- Minimal change disease
- In nephrotic syndrome, the glomerulus has been damaged so that a large amount of protein in the blood enters the urine. Other frequent features of the nephrotic syndrome include swelling, low serum albumin, and high cholesterol.
- Pyelonephritis is infection of the kidneys and is frequently caused by complication of a urinary tract infection.
- Renal failure
Stages of kidney disease
The GFR is the best indicator of how well the kidneys are working. In 2002, the National Kidney Foundation published treatment guidelines that identified five stages of CKD based on declining GFR measurements. The guidelines recommend different actions based on the stage of kidney disease.
Increased risk of CKD. A GFR of 90 or above is considered normal. Even with a normal GFR, you may be at increased risk for developing CKD if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney disease. The risk increases with age: People over 65 are more than twice as likely to develop CKD as people between the ages of 45 and 65. African Americans also have a higher risk of developing CKD.
Stage 1: Kidney damage with normal GFR (90 or above). Kidney damage may be detected before the GFR begins to decline. In this first stage of kidney disease, the goals of treatment are to slow the progression of CKD and reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
Stage 2: Kidney damage with mild decrease in GFR (60 to 89). When kidney function starts to decline, your health care provider will estimate the progression of your CKD and continue treatment to reduce the risk of other health problems.
Stage 3: Moderate decrease in GFR (30 to 59). When CKD has advanced to this stage, anemia and bone problems become more common. Work with your health care provider to prevent or treat these complications.
Stage 4: Severe reduction in GFR (15 to 29). Continue following the treatment for complications of CKD and learn as much as you can about the treatments for kidney failure. Each treatment requires preparation. If you choose hemodialysis, you will need to have a procedure to make a vein in your arm larger and stronger for repeated needle insertions. For peritoneal dialysis, you will need to have a catheter placed in your abdomen. Or you may want to ask family or friends to consider donating a kidney for transplantation.
Stage 5: Kidney failure (GFR less than 15). When the kidneys do not work well enough to maintain life, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
In addition to tracking your GFR, blood tests can show when substances in your blood are out of balance. If phosphorus or potassium levels start to climb, a blood test will prompt your health care provider to address these issues before they permanently affect your health.
Dialysis and kidney transplants
Generally, humans can live normally with just one kidney. Only when the amount of functioning kidney tissue is greatly diminished will renal failure develop. If renal function is impaired, various forms of medications are used, while others are contraindicated. Provided that treatment is begun early, it may be possible to reverse chronic kidney failure due to diabetes or high blood pressure. If creatinine clearance (a measure of renal function) has fallen very low ("end-stage renal failure"), or if the renal dysfunction leads to severe symptoms, dialysis is commenced. Dialysis is a medical procedure, performed in various different forms, where the blood is filtered outside of the body.
Kidney transplantation is the only cure for end stage renal failure; dialysis, is a supportive treatment; a form of "buying time" to bridge the inevitable wait for a suitable organ.
The first successful kidney transplant was announced on March 4, 1954 at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. The surgery was performed by Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990 for this feat.
There are two types of kidney transplants: living donor transplant and a cadaveric (dead donor) transplant. When a kidney from a living donor, usually a blood relative, is transplanted into the patient's body, the donor's blood group and tissue type must be judged compatible with the patient's, and extensive medical tests are done to determine the health of the donor. Before a cadaveric donor's organs can be transplanted, a series of medical tests have to be done to determine if the organs are healthy. Also, in some countries, the family of the donor must give its consent for the organ donation. In both cases, the recipient of the new organ needs to take drugs to suppress their immune system to help prevent their body from rejecting the new kidney .
- Medical terms related to the kidneys involve the prefixes renal- and nephro-.
- Surgical removal of the kidney is a nephrectomy, while a radical nephrectomy is removal of the kidney, its surrounding tissue, lymph nodes, and potentially the adrenal gland. A radical nephrectomy is performed for the removal of cancers.
|Urinary system - Kidney - edit|
|Renal capsule | Renal cortex | Renal medulla (Renal sinus, Renal pyramids) | Renal calyx | Renal pelvis|
|Nephron - Renal corpuscle (Glomerulus, Bowman's capsule) → Proximal tubule → Loop of Henle → Distal convoluted tubule → Collecting ducts|
|Filtration - Ultrafiltration | Countercurrent exchange|
|Assessing Renal function / Measures of Dialysis|
|Glomerular filtration rate | Creatinine clearance | Renal clearance ratio | Urea reduction ratio | Kt/V | Standardized Kt/V | Hemodialysis product|