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Kidney Location and
External Anatomy


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The kidneys are located high along the back wall of the abdominal cavity, posterior to the digestive tract’s organs. They lie on either side of the spine in the retroperitoneal space between the parietal peritoneum and the posterior abdominal wall and are well protected by muscle, fat, and ribs.

Location of kidneys: back wall of abdomen

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The left kidney is located at about the T12 to L3 vertebrae, whereas the right is lower due to a slight displacement caused by the liver’s position. The upper parts of the kidneys are partially protected by the 11th and 12th ribs.

Kidneys location: relative to ribcage and vertebral column

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External Anatomy

Each kidney weighs about 125–175 g in males and 115–155 g in females. They are about 11–14 cm in length, 6 cm wide, and 4 cm thick, and are directly covered by a fibrous capsule composed of dense, irregular connective tissue that helps to hold their shape and protect them. This capsule is covered by a shock-absorbing layer of adipose tissue called the renal fat pad, which is encompassed by a tough renal fascia. To a lesser extent, the fascia and the overlying peritoneum serve to firmly anchor the kidneys to the posterior abdominal wall in a retroperitoneal position.

On the superior aspect of each kidney is the adrenal gland. The adrenal cortex directly influences renal function through the production of the hormone aldosterone to stimulate sodium reabsorption.

Page Attributions

OpenStax College, Anatomy and Physiology

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Reference: “Gross Anatomy of the Kidney

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Reference 1: “Kidney

Reference 2: “Nephron