The Kidneys

Most people have two kidneys and they are found up under the ribcage toward the back. They are intimately associated with the adrenal glands. The kidneys themselves serve as filtering units for the blood. 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 the 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 down the ureters. The ureters are the drainpipes from the kidneys into the bladder. If for some reason the kidneys cannot perform their function as filtering units because of congenital problems, obstructions, stones, infection, or tumors, urologists are consulted to treat these particular conditions. Transplantation of a kidney from a donor to a patient with kidney failure is done with a urologist as a central part of the surgical team. The Urologist can often harvest a donor kidney laparoscopically, minimizing the surgery necessary for the donor.

Urological treatment may consist of either medical treatment or surgical treatment. What sets urologists apart from other specialists that deal with the kidneys, such as nephrologists, is that urologists are trained as surgeons.

When urologists are asked to evaluate patients, they often will examine a urine specimen to see if it contains blood or signs of infection. Often some type of radiographic examination is also ordered, such as ultrasound or a CT scan. When these types of investigation are not adequate for diagnosis, the urologist may choose to look directly into the urinary tract using a scope and special types of x-rays.

If a patient is found to have a condition requiring surgery, such as a tumor of the kidney, the urologist would be the one to perform the surgery necessary to remove part or all of the kidney, or in some rare instances, the ureter also. When nephrectomy (kidney removal) is needed for benign or cancerous kidney tumors, this can often be accomplished laporoscapically. The Urology Team has performed the majority of Laparoscopic procedures in the Austin area.

If kidney stones are discovered, treatment may be surgical, but rarely requires an incision these days. There are multiple methods of breaking up and/or removing stones, such as shock wave treatments or laser treatments.

If the kidney develops severe infection such as formation of an abscess, the urologist would also perform drainage of the abscess.

Pediatric patients are most often seen by urologists for congenital problems such as obstruction of the kidney or malformations of the lower urinary tract. The accepted community standard now is for these abnormalities to be treated by urologists who specialize in the area of pediatric urology.