2.6.1. Urinary system Anatomy

The kidneys

15_02Figureb-LIn humans the kidneys are located in the abdominal cavity, more specifically in the paravertebral gutter and lie in a retroperitoneal position at a slightly oblique angle. There are two, one on each side of the spine. The asymmetry within the abdominal cavity caused by the liver typically results in the right kidney being slightly lower than the left, and left kidney being located slightly more medial than the right. The left kidney is approximately at the vertebral level T12 to L3, and the right slightly lower. The right kidney sits just below the diaphragm and posterior to the liver, the left below the diaphragm and posterior to the spleen. Resting on top of each kidney is an adrenal gland. The upper (cranial) parts of the kidneys are partially protected by the eleventh and twelfth ribs, and each whole kidney and adrenal gland are surrounded by two layers of fat (the perirenal and pararenal fat) and the renal fascia. Each adult kidney weighs between 125 and 170 grams in males and between 115 and 155 grams in females. The left kidney is typically slightly larger than the right kidney.

The kidney has a bean-shaped structure; each kidney has a convex and concave surface. The concave surface, the renal hilum, is the point at which the renal artery enters the organ, and the renal vein and ureter leave. The kidney is surrounded by tough fibrous tissue, the renal capsule, which is itself surrounded by perinephric fat, renal fascia (of Gerota) andparanephric fat. The anterior (front) border of these tissues is the peritoneum, while the posterior (rear) border is thetransversalis fascia.

The superior border of the right kidney is adjacent to the liver; and the spleen, for the left kidney. Therefore, both move down on inhalation.

The kidney is approximately 11–14 cm in length, 6 cm wide and 4 cm thick.

The substance, or parenchyma, of the kidney is divided into two major structures: superficial is the renal cortex and deep is the renal medulla. Grossly, these structures take the shape of 8 to 18 cone-shaped renal lobes, each containing renal cortex surrounding a portion of medulla called a renal pyramid (of Malpighi). Between the renal pyramids are projections of cortex called renal columns (of Bertin). Nephrons, the urine-producing functional structures of the kidney, span the cortex and medulla. The initial filtering portion of a nephron is the renal corpuscle, located in the cortex, which is followed by a renal tubule that passes from the cortex deep into the medullary pyramids. Part of the renal cortex, a medullary ray is a collection of renal tubules that drain into a single collecting duct.

The tip, or papilla, of each pyramid empties urine into a minor calyx; minor calyces empty into major calyces, and major calyces empty into the renal pelvis, which becomes the ureter. At the hilum, the ureter and renal vein exit the kidney while the renal artery enters. Surrounding these structures is hilar fat and lymphatic tissue with lymph nodes. The hilar fat is contiguous with a fat-filled cavity called the renal sinus. The renal sinus collectively contains the renal pelvis and calyces and separates these structures from the renal medullary tissue.

Blood supply

The kidneys receive blood from the renal arteries, left and right, which branch directly from the abdominal aorta. Despite their relatively small size, the kidneys receive approximately 20% of the cardiac output.

Each renal artery branches into segmental arteries, dividing further into interlobar arteries which penetrate the renal capsule and extend through the renal columns between the renal pyramids. The interlobar arteries then supply blood to the arcuate arteries that run through the boundary of the cortex and the medulla. Each arcuate artery supplies several interlobular arteries that feed into the afferent arterioles that supply the glomeruli.

The interstitum (or interstitium) is the functional space in the kidney beneath the individual filters (glomeruli) which are rich in blood vessels. The interstitum absorbs fluid recovered from urine. Various conditions can lead to scarring and congestion of this area, which can cause kidney dysfunction and failure.

After filtration occurs the blood moves through a small network of venules that converge into interlobular veins. As with the arteriole distribution the veins follow the same pattern, the interlobular provide blood to the arcuate veins then back to the interlobar veins which come to form the renal vein exiting the kidney for transfusion for blood.

Functions

  • Excretion of wastes. These include the nitrogenous wastes called “urea”, from protein catabolism, as well as uric acid, from nucleic acid metabolism. Formation of urine is also the function of the kidney.
  • Acid-base homeostasis. Two organ systems, the kidneys and lungs, maintain acid-base homeostasis, which is the maintenance of pH around a relatively stable value. The lungs contribute to acid-base homeostasis by regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. The kidneys have two very important roles in maintaining the acid-base balance: to reabsorb bicarbonate from urine, and to excrete hydrogen ions into urine
  • Osmolality regulation. There are two systems that create a hyperosmotic medulla and thus increase the body plasma volume: Urea recycling and the ‘single effect.’
  • Blood pressure regulation.
  • Hormone secretion. The kidneys secrete a variety of hormones, including erythropoietin, and the enzyme renin. Erythropoietin is released in response to hypoxia (low levels of oxygen at tissue level) in the renal circulation. It stimulates erythropoiesis(production of red blood cells) in the bone marrow. Calcitriol, the activated form of vitamin D, promotes intestinal absorption of calcium and the renal reabsorption of phosphate. Part of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, renin is anenzyme involved in the regulation of aldosterone levels.

Ureter

f27-8_ureters_c The ureters are muscular ducts that propel urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder. In the human adult, the ureters are usually 25–30 cm (10–12 in) long. In humans, the ureters arise from the renal pelvis on the medial aspect of each kidney before descending towards the bladder on the front of the psoas major muscle. The ureters cross the pelvic brim near the bifurcation of the iliac arteries (which they run over). This “pelviureteric junction” is a common site for the impaction of kidney stones (the other being the uteterovesical valve). The ureters run posteriorly on the lateral walls of the pelvis. They then curve anteriormedially to enter the bladder through the back, at the vesicoureteric junction, running within the wall of the bladder for a few centimeters. The backflow of urine is prevented by valves known as ureterovesical valves. In the female, the ureters pass through the mesometrium on the way to the bladder.

Urinary bladder

f27-9a_urinary_bladder_cThe urinary bladder is the organ that collects urine excreted by the kidneys prior to disposal by urination. It is a hollow muscular, and distensible (or elastic) organ, and sits on the pelvic floor. Urine enters the bladder via the ureters and exits via the urethra.

Embryologically, the bladder is derived from the urogenital sinus, and it is initially continuous with the allantois. In human males, the base of the bladder lies between the rectum and the pubic symphysis. It is superior to the prostate, and separated from the rectum by the rectovesical excavation. In females, the bladder sits inferior to the uterus and anterior to the vagina. It is separated from the uterus by the vesicouterine excavation. In infants and young children, the urinary bladder is in the abdomen even when empty.

Urethra

In anatomy, the (from Greek – ourethra) is a tube which connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. In humans, the urethra has an excretory function in both genders to pass . The Excretory system is responsible for the elimination of wastes produced by homeostasis. There are several parts of the body that are involved in this process, such as sweat glands, the liver, the lungs and the kidney system. Every human has two kidneys. Each kidney is made up of three sections: the renal cortex, the renal medulla and the renal pelvis. The blood arrives at the kidney via the renal artery, which splits into many afferent arterioles. These arterioles go to the Bowman’s Capsules of nephrons, where the wastes are taken out of the blood by pressure filtration. Peritubular capillaries also surround the nephron so substances can be taken in and out of the blood. The renal cortex is the outer layer of the kidney and the medulla is the inner layer of the kidney. The renal pelvis takes urine away from the kidney via the ureter. Both of the ureters lead the urine into the body’s only urinary bladder, which expands and sends nerve impulses when full. From there, urine is expelled through the urethra and out of the body.

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