Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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UTI Anatomy

To better understand urinary tract infections, it helps to understand the anatomy of the kidneys and genitourinary tract.

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.

Anatomy examples:

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

In an adult, the bladder can hold 10 to 20 ounces of urine -- about as much liquid as in one can of soda. Urine is carried out of the body through the urethra, a tube at the bottom of the bladder.

The urinary tract is broken down into two areas:
  • Upper urinary tract:
    • Includes the kidneys and ureters
  • Lower urinary tract:
    • Includes the urethra and bladder in women
    • Includes the urethra and bladder in men

Last Updated: Nov 4, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed UTI References
  1. Christiaens TC, De Meyere M, Verschraegen G, Peersman W, Heytens S, De Maeseneer JM. Randomised controlled trial of nitrofurantoin versus placebo in the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infection in adult women. Br J Gen Pract. 2002 Sep;52(482):729-34. [12236276]
  2. Czaja CA, Hooton TM. Update on acute uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women. Postgrad Med. 2006 Jun-Jul;119(1):39-45. [16913646]
  3. Gomolin IH, Siami PF, Reuning-Scherer J, Haverstock DC, Heyd A; Oral Suspension Study Group. Efficacy and safety of ciprofloxacin oral suspension versus trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole oral suspension for treatment of older women with acute urinary tract infection. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2001 Dec;49(12):1606-13. [11843992]
  4. Krcmery S, Hromec J, Demesova D. Treatment of lower urinary tract infection in pregnancy. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2001 Apr;17(4):279-82. [11295408]
  5. McCarty JM, Richard G, Huck W, Tucker RM, Tosiello RL, Shan M, Heyd A, Echols RM. A randomized trial of short-course ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole for the treatment of acute urinary tract infection in women. Ciprofloxacin Urinary Tract Infection Group. Am J Med. 1999 Mar;106(3):292-9. [10190377]
  6. Milo G, Katchman EA, Paul M, Christiaens T, Baerheim A, Leibovici L. Duration of antibacterial treatment for uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD004682. [15846726]
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