The kidney has a bean-shaped structure. Each kidney has concave and convex surfaces. The concave surface, the renal hilum, is the point at which the renal artery enters the organ, and the renal vein and ureter leave. The kidney is approximately 11–14 cm in length, 6 cm wide and 4 cm thick.
The kidney is surrounded by tough fibrous tissue, the renal capsule, which is itself surrounded by perinephric fat, renal fascia and paranephric fat. The anterior border of these tissues is the peritoneum, while the posterior border is the transversalis fascia. The superior border of the right kidney is adjacent to the liver; and the spleen, for the left border. Therefore, both move down on inhalation.
The substance, or parenchyma, of the kidney is divided into two major structures: superficial is the renal cortex and deep is the renal medulla. Grossly, these structures take the shape of 8 to 18 cone-shaped renal lobes, each containing renal cortex surrounding a portion of medulla called a renal pyramid. Between the renal pyramids are projections of cortex called renal columns .
Nephrons, the urine-producing functional structures of the kidney, span the cortex and medulla. The initial filtering portion of a nephron is the renal corpuscle, located in the cortex, which is followed by a renal tubule that passes from the cortex deep into the medullary pyramids. Part of the renal cortex, a medullary ray is a collection of renal tubules that drain into a single collecting duct. The tip, or papilla, of each pyramid empties urine into a minor calyx, minor calyces empty into major calyces, and major calyces empty into the renal pelvis, which becomes the ureter.
The kidney participates in whole-body homeostasis, regulating acid-base balance, electrolyte concentrations, extracellular fluid volume, and regulation of blood pressure. The kidney accomplishes these homeostatic functions both independently and in concert with other organs, particularly those of the endocrine system. Various endocrine hormones coordinate these endocrine functions; these include renin, angiotensin II, aldosterone, antidiuretic hormone, and atrial natriuretic peptide, among others.
Many of the kidney's functions are accomplished by relatively simple mechanisms of filtration, reabsorption, and secretion, which take place in the nephron. Filtration, which takes place at the renal corpuscle, is the process by which cells and large proteins are filtered from the blood to make an ultrafiltrate that will eventually become urine. The kidney generates 180 liters of filtrate a day, while reabsorbing a large percentage, allowing for only the generation of approximately 2 liters of urine. Reabsorption is the transport of molecules from this ultrafiltrate and into the blood. Secretion is the reverse process, in which molecules are transported in the opposite direction, from the blood into the urine.