The renal tubules of which the kidney is for the most part made up, commence in the cortical substance, and after pursuing a very circuitous course through the cortical and medullary substances, finally end at the apices of the renal pyramids by open mouths, so that the fluid which they contain is emptied, through the calyces, into the pelvis of the kidney.
If the surface of one of the papillæ be examined with a lens, it will be seen to be studded over with minute openings, the orifices of the renal tubules, from sixteen to twenty in number, and if pressure be made on a fresh kidney, urine will be seen to exude from these orifices.
The tubules commence in the convoluted part and renal columns as the renal corpuscles, which are small rounded masses of a deep red color, varying in size, but of an average of about 0.2 mm. in diameter. Each of these little bodies is composed of two parts: a central glomerulus of vessels, and a membranous envelope, the glomerular capsule (capsule of Bowman), which is the small pouch-like commencement of a renal tubule.
The renal tubules, commencing in the renal corpuscles, present, during their course, many changes in shape and direction, and are contained partly in the medullary and partly in the cortical substance.
At their junction with the glomerular capsule they exhibit a somewhat constricted portion, which is termed the neck. Beyond this the tubule becomes convoluted, and pursues a considerable course in the cortical substance constituting the proximal convoluted tube. After a time the convolutions disappear, and the tube approaches the medullary substance in a more or less spiral manner; this section of the tubule has been called the spiral tube. Throughout this portion of their course the renal tubules are contained entirely in the cortical substance, and present a fairly uniform caliber. They now enter the medullary substance, suddenly become much smaller, quite straight in direction, and dip down for a variable depth into the pyramids, constituting the descending limb of Henle’s loop. Bending on themselves, they form what is termed the loop of Henle, and reascending, they become suddenly enlarged, forming the ascending limb of Henle’s loop, and reënter the cortical substance. This portion of the tubule ascends for a short distance, when it again becomes dilated, irregular, and angular. This section is termed the zigzag tubule; it ends in a convoluted tube, which resembles the proximal convoluted tubule, and is called the distal convoluted tubule. This again terminates in a narrow junctional tube, which enters the straight or collecting tube.