The kidneys are a pair of vital organs that perform many functions to keep the blood clean and chemically balanced. Understanding how the kidneys work can help a person keep them healthy.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located near the middle of the back, just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine. The kidneys are sophisticated reprocessing machines. Every day, a person's kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to sift out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water. The wastes and extra water become urine, which flows to the bladder through tubes called ureters. The bladder stores urine until releasing it through urination.
The kidneys remove wastes and water from the blood to form urine. Urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder through the ureters.
Wastes in the blood come from the normal breakdown of active tissues, such as muscles, and from food. The body uses food for energy and self-repairs. After the body has taken what it needs from food, wastes are sent to the blood. If the kidneys did not remove them, these wastes would build up in the blood and damage the body.
Kidney transplantation or renal transplantation is the organ transplant of a kidney into a patient with end-stage renal disease. Kidney transplantation is typically classified as deceased-donor (formerly known as cadaveric) or living-donor transplantation depending on the source of the donor organ. Living-donor renal transplants are further characterized as genetically related (living-related) or non-related (living-unrelated) transplants, depending on whether a biological relationship exists between the donor and recipient.
When your kidneys are healthy, they clean your blood. They also make hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood healthy. When your kidneys fail, you need treatment to replace the work your kidneys used to do. Unless you have a kidney transplant, you will need a treatment called dialysis.
There are two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both types filter your blood to rid your body of harmful wastes, extra salt and water. Hemodialysis does that with a machine. Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your abdomen, called the peritoneal membrane, to filter your blood. Each type has both risks and benefits. They also require that you follow a special diet. Your doctor can help you decide the best type of dialysis for you.