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Kidneys from behind

Human kidneys viewed from behind with spine removed

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 the kidney; the adjective meaning "kidney-related" is renal, from the Latin.

LocationEdit

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 spleen. Above each kidney is an adrenal gland (also called the suprarenal gland).

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.

Kidney section

Above each human kidney is one of the two adrenal glands.

StructureEdit

OrganizationEdit

In a normal human adult, each kidney is about 11 cm long and about 5 cm thick, weighing 150 grams. 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 outermost portion of the kidney is called the renal cortex, which sits directly beneath the kidney's loose connective tissue 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.

Blood supplyEdit

Each kidney receives its blood supply from a 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.

NephronEdit

Main article: Nephron

The basic functional unit of the kidney is the nephron, of which there are more than a million in each normal adult human kidney. Nephrons regulate water and soluble matter (especially electrolytes) in the body by first filtering the blood, then reabsorbing some necessary fluid and molecules 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 systemEdit

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. Failure of the organism to produce ADH (or inability of the collecting ducts to respond to it) may cause excessive urination, called diabetes insipidus. 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. After being processed along the collecting tubules and ducts, the fluid, now called urine, is drained into the bladder via the ureter, to be finally excluded from the organism.

FunctionsEdit

Main article: Renal physiology

Excretion of waste productsEdit

The kidneys excrete a variety of waste products produced by metabolism, for example, urea (from protein catabolism) and uric acid (from nucleic acid metabolism).

HomeostasisEdit

Acid-Base Balance

The kidneys regulate the pH, mineral ion concentration, and water composition of the blood.

By exchanging hydronium ions and hydroxyl ions, the blood plasma is maintained by the kidney at pH 7.4. Urine, on the other hand, becomes either acidic at pH 5 or alkaline at pH 8.

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.

Water Balance

Sodium ions are controlled in a homeostatic process involving aldosterone which increases sodium ion absorption in the distal convoluted tubules.

Plasma Volume

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%.

Hormone secretionEdit

The kidneys secrete a variety of hormones, including erythropoietin, renin, and vitamin D.

TermsEdit

  • 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.

Kidney diseasesEdit

CongenitalEdit

AcquiredEdit

Dialysis and kidney transplantsEdit

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, before a serum creatinine of 2 mg/dl, 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 advanced chronic renal failure; dialysis, while correcting the abnormalities to a degree, is seen as 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 [1].

Medical terminologyEdit

  • 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 removal of cancers.<>

See alsoEdit

Urinary system - Kidney - edit
Renal capsule | Renal cortex | Renal medulla (Renal sinusRenal pyramids) | Renal calyx | Renal pelvis
Nephron - Renal corpuscle (GlomerulusBowman's capsule) → Proximal tubule → Loop of Henle → Distal convoluted tubule → Collecting ducts

Juxtaglomerular apparatus (Macula densaJuxtaglomerular cells)

Renal circulation - Renal artery → Interlobar arteries → Arcuate arteries → Cortical radial arteries → Afferent arterioles → Glomerulus → Efferent arterioles → Vasa recta → Arcuate vein → Renal vein

Renal physiology
Filtration - Ultrafiltration | Countercurrent exchange

Hormones effecting filtration - Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) | Aldosterone | Atrial natriuretic peptide

Endocrine - Renin | Erythropoietin (EPO) | Calcitriol (Active vitamin D) | Prostaglandins

Assessing Renal function / Measures of Dialysis
Glomerular filtration rate | Creatinine clearance | Renal clearance ratio | Urea reduction ratio | Kt/V | Standardized Kt/V | Hemodialysis product



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