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Lymphatics of the urinary organs

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Identify the major lymph node groups of the pelvis and posterior abdominal wall
  2. Describe the drainage of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra into the lymph nodes mentioned above

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Lymphatic drainage of the urinary system, as occurs with many other systems, is carried out to regional lymph nodes found around its organs, which then drain into larger lymphatic vessels and more central lymph node groups.

The main lymphatic drainage routes of the urinary system are centered around the common, internal and external iliac lymph nodes, as well as the lumbar (aortic and caval) lymph nodes. These in turn drain into the left and right lumbar lymph trunks, which join together to form the cisterna chyli, which continues as the thoracic duct. In the case of the urinary bladder, lymph collected from this organ is drained to paravesical lymph nodes which feed into the larger groups mentioned above.

Watch the video below to learn more about the lymphatics of the urinary organs!

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For a more broad view in the lymphatics of the abdomen and pelvis check out this custom quiz:

Browse atlas


Key facts about the lymphatics of the urinary organs
Kidney Three plexuses of lymphatic vessels: parenchymal, subcapsular, perirenal fat
All three drain to lumbar (caval and aortic) lymph nodes
Ureters Superior abdominal part: drain to lumbar lymph nodes
Inferior abdominal part: drain to common iliac lymph nodes
Pelvic part: drain to external iliac lymph nodes
Bladder Lymph drains into paravesical (prevesical, lateral vesical and retrovesical) lymph nodes
Superolateral region of bladder: ultimately drains to common iliac lymph nodes
Fundus of the bladder: external and internal iliac lymph nodes
Urethra Lymph drains to common, internal and external lymph nodes
Males: the spongy part of urethra drains to prepubic lymph node and superomedial superficial inguinal lymph nodes before draining to external iliac lymph nodes

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