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Renal blood flow diagram, kidney blood flow diagram

Kidney Blood Supply

Arteries, Arterioles, Capillaries, and Veins

Introduction

The renal blood supply encompasses a complex network of arteries, arterioles, capillaries, and veins, which enables the kidneys to filter and maintain blood homeostasis.

Blood enters the kidney through a large renal artery, which branches into smaller arteries while transporting blood toward the renal cortex.

Within the cortex, these arteries penetrate the renal lobes and divide into arterioles. These arterioles lead to the glomerular capillaries, where blood filtration occurs.

After filtration, blood flows through a network of capillaries that allow substances to be exchanged with nearby kidney tubules.

Finally, smaller veins collect blood from the capillaries. These veins converge to form larger veins that transport the blood away from the renal lobes and cortex. They lead to the renal vein, which returns the filtered blood to systemic circulation.

Kidney blood flow diagram, kidney blood flow chart, renal blood flow diagram, renal blood flow chart

Major Arteries

Renal Artery

The kidneys receive blood from the renal arteries, which branch perpendicularly from the descending (abdominal) aorta. These arteries provide the kidney with an ample blood supply, amounting to approximately 20% – 25% of the heart’s output, equating to about 1 liter of blood per minute.

Segmental Arteries

Just after the renal artery enters the renal hilum, it branches into segmental arteries, which supply blood to the five segments or regions of the kidney.

Interlobar Arteries

The segmental arteries divide into interlobar arteries, which pass through the renal columns to provide blood to the renal lobes.

Major arteries of the kidney, descending aorta, renal artery, segmental artery, interlobar artery

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Blood is directed towards the renal lobes because they contain the nephron tubules that form urine. A kidney usually has 7 to 9 renal lobes, each consisting of two regions. The lighter outer region is part of the renal cortex, and the darker inner region, the renal pyramidal, is part of the renal medulla.

Renal lobe, nephrons, kidney

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Small Arteries

Arcuate Arteries

The arcuate arteries branch from the interlobar arteries and enter the renal lobes, where they run alongside the arched intersections between the renal cortex and renal medulla.

Cortical Radiate Arteries

Cortical radiate arteries (interlobular arteries) branch at right angles and extend into the renal cortex from the arcuate arteries.

Cortical radiate arteries, arcuate arteries, interlobular arteries of the kidney

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Arterioles and Glomerulus

Afferent Arterioles

The cortical radiate arteries give off afferent arterioles that deliver blood to the Bowman’s capsules of nephrons.

Glomerulus

Within a Bowman’s capsule, an afferent arteriole forms a tuft of high-pressure capillaries called the glomerulus. The glomerulus and the Bowman’s capsule together form the renal corpuscle. Blood is filtered across the capillary walls of this tuft through the glomerular filtration barrier, which yields its filtrate of water and soluble substances to the interior space of the Bowman’s capsule.

Efferent Arterioles

The glomerular capillaries eventually merge to form an efferent arteriole, which exits the Bowman’s capsule.

Cortical radiate arteries, arcuate arteries, interlobular arteries of the kidney

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Capillaries Near Nephron Tubules

The efferent arterioles branch extensively, forming a network of capillaries that wind around the renal tubules of the nephrons. The proximity of the capillaries and renal tubules allows the exchange of substances between the neighboring structures.

Peritubular Capillaries

The capillaries that travel alongside the proximal and distal convoluted tubules of the nephrons are called the peritubular capillaries. 

Vasa recta Capillaries

Those that travel alongside the loops of Henle of the juxtamedullary nephrons are called the vasa recta capillaries

Peritubular capillaries and vasa recta capillaries of the kidney

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Veins

Cortical Radiate Veins

After the blood is cleansed and rebalanced by the nephrons and nearby capillaries, it drains into the cortical radiate veins (interlobular veins).

Arcuate Veins

The cortical radiate veins merge at right angles with the arcuate veins, which carry the blood away from the renal lobes.

Cortical radiate vein, arcuate vein, kidney veins

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Interlobular Veins

The blood from the arcuate veins moves to the interlobar veins and flows through the renal columns along the edges of the renal lobes.

Renal Veins

Blood is then carried away from the kidney by the renal vein and delivered to the inferior vena cava to transport it to the heart.

Major veins of the kidney, renal vein, interlobar veins, arcuate veins

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Learning Activities

Kidney Blood Flow Activity

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Kidney Blood Flow Chart

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References and Attributions

Cleveland Clinic – “Renal Artery.”

ScienceDirect – “Kidney Blood Flow.”

ScienceDirect – “Kidney Circulation.”

OpenStax; Anatomy and Physiology – “Gross Anatomy of the Kidney” (Access for free at – https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/1-introduction).

Radiopaedia – “Kidneys.”

University of Nottingham – “Anatomy of the KIdneys: Blood Flow“.