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Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the main features related to the surface anatomy of the kidney.
  2. Master the gross internal anatomical structure of the kidney.
  3. Learn about the functions of the kidney.

Watch videos

The kidneys are a pair of bilateral, retroperitoneal abdominal organs of the urinary system which are located on either side of the vertebral column. Externally, they are surrounded by a fibrous capsule and adipose tissue that protect them from injury, while functionally the main parts of the kidney are the cortex, medulla and hilum. Their main function is to regulate the amount of fluid and electrolytes in the body. They also excrete metabolic waste products and produce hormones that facilitate several metabolic processes.

These video tutorials will provide you with an overview of the kidneys, their main anatomical features, functions, and associated structures.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the videos about the kidneys, their structure and function, test your knowledge by taking our quiz.

Do you have more additional knowledge that needs to be tested? No worries, we got you covered. Try our custom quiz about the urinary system where you can pick your own topics!

Browse atlas

Now you can observe each structure of the kidney in more detail with our image gallery.


Key points about the kidneys
Definition Paired retroperitoneal organs of the urinary system.
Main external features 2 poles (superior and inferior)
2 borders (lateral and medial)
Fibrous capsule, hilum
Main internal features Renal cortex, renal medulla, renal pelvis
Neurovascular structures Renal artery (branch of the abdominal aorta)
Renal vein (drains to the inferior vena cava)
Renal plexus (derived from celiac plexus, intermesenteric plexus, and lumbar splanchnic nerves)
Functions Elimination of toxic metabolites through urine, regulation of blood homeostasis and blood pressure, production of some hormones

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