The Kidneys


Kidneys are organs in the urinary system that serve as filtering units for the blood. Kidneys are located on the right and left side of the body in the upper part of the abdominal cavity. Each kidney has an adrenal gland on top, and a ureter attached to its bottom that serves to move urine from the kidneys to the bladder for removal from the body. At any given time, about one quarter of a person's total blood volume is circulating through the kidneys, which is an inordinately high volume considering that kidneys take up a relatively small portion of the overall body mass. When everything is functioning properly, the kidneys filter the blood, saving the valuable portions of the blood and excreting unneeded substance in liquid form (urine) down the ureters.

When kidneys are not functioning properly, a Nephrologist or Urologist may be consulted. A Nephrologist specializes in kidney function and health, while a Urologist specializes in the urinary system and all of its components. Urologists can diagnose and treat (medically or surgically) kidney problems associated with congenital problems, obstructions, stones, infection, or tumors (benign or cancerous), and cysts. If the kidney develops a severe infection, such as formation of an abscess, the Urologist can drain the abscess. Urologists also assist as part of the surgical team for kidney transplantation. 

When a Urologist is asked to evaluate patients, they will examine a urine specimen to see if it contains blood or signs of infection. Often a radiographic examination is also ordered, such as ultrasound or a CT scan. When these types of investigations are not adequate for diagnosis, the Urologist may choose to look directly into the urinary tract using a scope. If kidney stones are discovered, there are various methods for breaking up and/or removing stones, including surgery, shock wave lithotripsy or laser lithotripsy.