Anatomy of the Kidney


The kidneys lie retroperitoneally (behind the peritoneum) in the abdomen, either side of the vertebral column. They typically extend from T12 to L3, although the right kidney is often situated slightly lower due to the presence of the liver. Each kidney is approximately three vertebrae in length.

The renal pelvis drains into the ureter. The renal pyramids are in the medulla. The cortex covers the capsule. Nephrons are in the renal cortex.


Your kidneys perform several important functions within your body. Many different disorders can affect them.

Common conditions that impact your kidneys include:

1. Chronic kidney disease: Chronic kidney disease(CKD) may lessen your kidney function. Diabetes or high blood pressure usually causes CKD.

2. Kidney cancer: Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer.

3. Kidney failure (renal failure): Kidney failure may be acute (worsen suddenly) or chronic (a permanent lessening of how well your kidneys work). End-stage renal disease is a complete loss of kidney function. It requires dialysis(treatment to filter your blood in place of your kidneys).

4. Kidney infection (pyelonephritis): A kidney infectioncan occur if bacteria enter your kidneys by traveling up your ureters. These infections cause sudden symptoms. Healthcare providers treat them with antibiotics.

5. Kidney stones: Kidney stonescause crystals to form in your urine and may block urine flow.