How the kidneys work

How the kidneys work

Inside the kidney tiny networks of tubes called nephrons filter the blood. As blood passes through the nephrons all unwanted waste is taken away. Chemicals that your body needs are kept or returned to the bloodstream.

Inside the nephrons waste products move from the small blood vessels into urine collecting tubes. The urine gathers in an area called the renal pelvis at the center of each kidney. From here it drains down a tube called the ureter and into the bladder.

There are 2 ureters, one from each kidney. Another tube called the urethra carries the urine from the bladder out of the body.

How the kidneys work

How the kidneys work

Blood supply

The kidneys have a very rich blood supply. Blood passes through in large amounts so the kidneys can filter it and remove waste products.

The main blood vessel to the kidney is called the renal artery. There are also large blood vessels carrying the cleaned blood away. These are called the renal veins. 

How the kidneys work


The kidneys also produce three important hormones:

  • erythropoietin (EPO) which tells your bone marrow to make red blood cells
  • renin, which regulates blood pressure
  • calcitriol (a form of vitamin D) which helps the intestine absorb calcium to keep your bones healthy
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