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The kidneys are situated in the posterior part of the abdomen, one on either side of the vertebral column, behind the peritoneum, and surrounded by a mass of fat and loose areolar tissue. Their upper extremities are on a level with the upper border of the twelfth thoracic vertebra, their lower extremities on a level with the third lumbar. The right kidney is usually slightly lower than the left, probably on account of the vicinity of the liver.

The long axis of each kidney is directed downward and lateralward; the transverse axis backward and lateralward.

Each kidney is about 11.25 cm. in length, 5 to 7.5 cm. in breadth, and rather more than 2.5 cm. in thickness. The left is somewhat longer, and narrower, than the right. The weight of the kidney in the adult male varies from 125 to 170 gm., in the adult female from 115 to 155 gm. The combined weight of the two kidneys in proportion to that of the body is about 1 to 240.

The kidney has a characteristic form, and presents for examination two surfaces, two borders, and an upper and lower extremity.

The kidneys serve several essential regulatory roles in vertebrates. They remove excess organic molecules from the blood, and it is by this action that their best-known function is performed: the removal of waste products of metabolism. They are essential in the urinary system and also serve homeostatic functions such as the regulation of electrolytes, maintenance of acid–base balance, and regulation of blood pressure (via maintaining salt and water balance). They serve the body as a natural filter of the blood, and remove water soluble wastes, which are diverted to the bladder. In producing urine, the kidneys excrete wastes such as urea and ammonium, and they are also responsible for the reabsorption of water, glucose, and amino acids. The kidneys also produce hormones includingcalcitriol, erythropoietin, and the enzyme renin, the last of which indirectly acts on the kidney in negative feedback.


This definition incorporates text from a public domain edition of Gray's Anatomy (20th U.S. edition of Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body, published in 1918 – from


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