Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Kidney Disease Nephrotic Syndrome Anatomy

To better understand nephrotic syndrome, it helps to understand the anatomy of the kidneys.

The kidneys are located in the back of the abdomen, below the ribcage and on either side of the spine. Each kidney weighs about 1/4 pound (0.6 kg) and is about the size of a fist. The kidneys filter waste from the bloodstream and produce urine. The kidneys also regulate the salt and water balance for the body. Urine leaves the kidneys and travels to the bladder via the ureters.


  • Kidney
  • Kidney cross section
  • Kidney cross section close-up
  • Kidney collecting system
  • Genitourinary system

Major functions of the kidneys include:
  • Elimination of waste products
  • Regulation of red blood cell production
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Regulation of the body's delicate chemical and fluid balance

As blood enters the kidney, it is carried into functional units called nephrons. A nephron is made up of a cluster of small blood vessels called a glomerulus, which is attached to a tubule. There are about one million nephrons in each kidney. Combined, both kidneys have about 140 miles of tubes and filters. The filtration process that separates waste products from the blood takes place at the glomerulus inside each nephron.

Last Updated: Nov 4, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Kidney Disease Nephrotic Syndrome References
  1. Durkan A, Hodson EM, Willis NS, Craig JC. Non-corticosteroid treatment for nephrotic syndrome in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD002290. [15846634]
  2. Habashy D, Hodson EM, Craig JC. Interventions for steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome: a systematic review. Pediatr Nephrol. 2003 Sep;18(9):906-12. [12836096]
  3. Hodson EM, Knight JF, Willis NS, Craig JC. Corticosteroid therapy for nephrotic syndrome in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25;(1):CD001533. [15674881]
  4. Hogg RJ. Adolescents with proteinuria and/or the nephrotic syndrome. Adolesc Med Clin. 2005 Feb;16(1):163-72. [15844389]
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