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What Is the Anatomy of the Kidney?

Kidneys are located towards the back of the body on either side of the spine.
The anatomy of a kidney.
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  • Written By: Page Coleman
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2014
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The kidney is a critical organ in the body’s renal system. Some of the larger components in the anatomy of the kidney include the renal pelvis, renal medulla, and renal cortext. Kidneys aid in filtering toxins and maintaining fluid balance. In addition to these functions, the kidneys play other important roles in maintaining health.

Humans typically have two kidneys. A human adult kidney is about the size of a fist and is bean-shaped. The kidneys are located under the rib cage, one on either side of the spine, and they are located near the back of the body. Kidneys have a concave section which faces closer to the spine. A depression on this section of the anatomy of the kidney holds the renal sinus, and the ureter, blood and lymphatic vessels, nerves, and ureter enter here.

The top portion of the ureter enters the kidney and forms a renal pelvis, which is subdivided into two or three tubes that are called major calyces. These major calyces are further divided into minor calyces. Along with the renal pelvis, the kidney contains two other main divisions. One is the renal medulla, which holds renal pyramids. These parts of the kidney are cone-shaped collections of tissue, which have tubules that move urine from the outer portion in the anatomy of the kidney to the inner portion of calyces.

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Another main structure in the anatomy of the kidney is the renal cortex. A renal cortex wraps around the renal medulla, and it fills space between renal pyramids. These filed-in areas are known as renal columns. This cortex also hold part of the nephrons.

Nephrons are the functional unit of the kidney anatomy, and most of the work is undertaken by this part in the structure of the kidneys. There are approximately one million nephrons in each kidney. They contain renal corpuscles, made up of blood capillary clusters called glomerulus.

The glomerulus aid in filtering fluid, the initial step in forming urine. A glomerular capsule encases the glomerulus. Nephrons also contain renal tubules, which are the tubules that fluid flows through as it leaves the body.

One of the key functions of the kidneys is to maintain the body’s fluid balance. Another important function is to remove wastes that were generated through the process of metabolism. The kidneys also aid in controlling red blood cell production by secreting a hormone known as erythropoietin. Along with supporting red blood cell production, they also aid in stimulating vitamin D. The kidneys play an important role in maintaining blood pressure and blood volume.

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