Acute Kidney Injury

Gross Anatomy of Normal Kidney

Jennifer Kong and Eva M. Su

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Identify gross structures of the kidney
  • Explain the functions of the major kidney structures
  • List the path of blood flow and urine filtration

The kidneys are amazing organs as they filter all of the blood through millions of microscopic nephrons. To the naked eye, these nephrons and blood vessels  look like dense, smooth red/brown tissue.  Yet, these nephrons help separate unwanted wastes from blood,  draining them into structures that collect urine. At the same time, these nephrons help retain valuable nutrients, electrolytes, and water which is reabsorbed back into the blood vessels of the kidney and put back into the general circulation.

Normal Gross Anatomy of the Kidney – created and presented by Eva M. Su
Video Summary:  the kidney is a red/brown colour due to the high amount of blood that is being filtered.  Blood enters and leaves the kidney via the renal hilum. The kidney is covered in a thin, invisible capsule. The outer rim of the kidney is the renal cortex, containing the blood vessels and glomeruli. The inner portion of the kidney is the renal medulla which contain the renal pyramids, separated by renal columns which contain renal vessels going to/from the cortex.  The renal pyramids contain the nephron loops.  At the tip of each pyramid, the renal pappila connects the pyramid to the minor calyces, a funnel-like structure which drains the urine from the nephrons. Minor calyces drain into major calyces which merge to form the renal pelvis. The ureter is attached to the renal pelvis and drains the urine in an inferior direction towards the bladder.



Overview of the Nephrons and Blood & Urine Flow – created and presented by Eva M. Su. Figure presented is from the Open Ed text “Anatomy & Physiolology” by CCCOnline (CC-BY-SA) and work by Cenveo, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Summary and Post-test of normal kidney anatomy – created and presented by Eva M. Su

Key Definitions

  • Vasa Recta – Branches of the efferent arterioles that parallel the course of the loops of Henle and are continuous with the peritubular capillaries.
  • Renal Fat Pad – Adipose tissue between the renal fascia and the renal capsule that provides protective cushioning to the kidney.


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Pathology Copyright © 2022 by Jennifer Kong and Eva M. Su is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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