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Kidney Anatomy and Function
Renal System Anatomy
The bean-shaped kidneys are about the size of a closed fist. They lie against the back of the abdominal wall, outside the peritoneal cavity (which contains all of the bowels), just above the waistline in the lumbar (low back) region.
The adrenal glands (part of the endocrine system) sit on top of the kidneys and release a hormone called renin which helps to regulate blood pressure, and sodium (or salt) and water retention.
The right kidney often sits slightly lower than the left one because of the position of the liver. Kidneys are about 4 1/2 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. The kidneys are highly vascular (contain a lot of blood vessels) and are divided into three main regions: the renal cortex (outer region which contains about 1.25 million renal tubules), renal medulla (middle region which acts as a collecting chamber), and renal pelvis (inner region which receives urine through the major calyces).
The kidneys are protected in front by the contents of the abdomen and behind by the muscles attached to the spine. They are further protected by a layer of fat.
The Renal System
- Kidneys – Our body’s filtration system that collects waste products
- Ureters – Muscular tubes that transport urine from each kidney to the bladder.
- Urinary Bladder – A sac that collects and holds urine that comes from the ureters.
- Urethra – a narrow passageway where urine passes from the bladder to the outside of the body i.e. the process of urination.
The kidney is a very important organ in regards to body homeostasis. It participates in vital processes such as regulation of blood osmolarity and pH, regulation of blood volume and blood pressure, production of hormones, and filtration of foreign substances.
In general, the amount of blood in the body is 5 liters. Any excessive amount of fluid will increase the pressure on the arterial wall and cause the blood pressure to rise (hypertension). Luckily, the kidneys also feel this increase of pressure, and in cases when this happens, they increase the filtration rate of blood and production of urine, which subsequently leads to the increase fluid excretion and decrease of blood pressure. Of course, if the situation is the other way around (less than 5 liters of blood), blood pressure is too low (hypotension). Hypotension is a stimulus for the kidneys to increase the retention of fluid and thus increase blood pressure.
Besides blood volume and pressure regulation, kidneys also participate in the production of calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D). Also, in situations with notable blood losses, kidneys release a hormone called erythropoietin, which stimulates bone marrow to produce more blood cells.
Cells in our body constantly produce hydrogen ions. An increased amount of hydrogen ions can acidify the blood and cause a state called acidosis. Kidneys have a special system for the excretion of hydrogen ions, and in that way consistently maintain the pH of blood at 7.4. The opposite situation is possible too, if the kidneys excrete too many hydrogen ions, the pH of blood becomes too alkaline, and leads to a state called alkalosis.
This is just a peek into the kidney physiology. In order to understand the functions of the kidney, we must first learn its anatomy.
The functional substance, or parenchyma, of the kidney is divided into two major structures: the outer renal cortex and the inner renal medulla. Grossly, these structures take the shape of eight to 18 cone-shaped renal lobes, each containing renal cortex surrounding a portion of medulla called a renal pyramid. Between the renal pyramids are projections of cortex called renal columns. Nephrons, the urine-producing functional structures of the kidney, span the cortex and medulla.
The initial filtering portion of a nephron is the renal corpuscle, which is located in the cortex. This is followed by a renal tubule that passes from the cortex deep into the medullary pyramids. Part of the renal cortex, a medullary ray is a collection of renal tubules that drain into a single collecting duct.
The tip, or papilla, of each pyramid empties urine into a minor calyx; minor calyces empty into major calyces, and major calyces empty into the renal pelvis. This becomes the ureter. At the hilum, the ureter and renal vein exit the kidney and the renal artery enters. Hilar fat and lymphatic tissue with lymph nodes surround these structures. The hilar fat is contiguous with a fat-filled cavity called the renal sinus. The renal sinus collectively contains the renal pelvis and calyces and separates these structures from the renal medullary tissue.
Because of all of the vital functions the kidneys perform and the toxins they encounter, the kidneys are susceptible to various problems.
Some of these conditions include:
- chronic kidney disease
- kidney failure
- kidney stones
- acute nephritis
- polycystic kidney disease
- urinary tract infections
- kidney cysts
- nephrotic syndrome
Tips for healthy kidneys
The kidneys are important organs that affect many other body parts, including the heart. Follow these tips to keep them working efficiently:
Avoid extra salt
Eating a lot of salty foods can disrupt the balance of minerals in the blood. This can make it harder for the kidneys to work properly. Try swapping out processed foods — which usually have a lot of added salt — for whole foods, such as:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- lean cuts of meat
High blood pressure is a known risk factor for chronic kidney disease. Regular exercise, even for just 20 minutes a day, can help reduce blood pressure.
Use medications with caution
Regularly taking certain over-the-counter medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can cause kidney damage over time. Occasionally taking them is fine, but work with your doctor to find alternatives if you have a condition that requires managing pain, such as arthritis.
Kidney injury and failure
Generally, humans can live normally with just one kidney, as one has more functioning renal tissue than is needed to survive. Only when the amount of functioning kidney tissue is greatly diminished does one develop chronic kidney disease. Renal replacement therapy, in the form of dialysis or kidney transplantation, is indicated when the glomerular filtration rate has fallen very low or if the renal dysfunction leads to severe symptoms.
What system or systems are the kidneys a part of?
one system is the excretory system. The excretory system also contains the ureter, bladder, and urethra.
Excretory system. The kidneys filter toxins from the blood so that you can get rid of them in your urine.
The excretory system.
The kidney is part of the excretory system and is regulated by the endocrine system. It is responsible for regulating water concentration and the extraction of urea and excessive ions.
The kidneys are a part of the urinary system. the urinary system is one component of the excretory system of your body.
The kidney is a part of the ”excretory system”. It is regulates the chemical composition of body fluids by removing metabolic wastes and retaining the proper amounts of water, salts, and nutrients. Components of this system in vertebrates include the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin.
Kidney Blood Vessels
The kidneys are important to the body’s production of urine. They also play a role in regulating important components in the blood.
Oxygenated blood comes to the kidneys from the right and left renal arteries off the abdominal aorta. Deoxygenated blood leaves the kidneys via the right and left renal veins that run into to the inferior vena cava.
The kidneys are highly complicated “filtration factories.” Inside each kidney, the renal arteries branch into smaller and smaller parts until they make contact with the core structural and functional units of the kidney, the nephrons.
The nephrons include tiny coiled tubes of capillaries and their associated tubules. Each kidney has approximately 1 million Trusted Source of them. The nephrons regulate waste, water, and other materials in the blood and urine to adjust to the body’s changing needs.