Normal Kidney Location
Kidney location can be considered from two (2) perspectives. The first perspective has to do with the normal position of the kidneys within the body's physical anatomy.
When most people ask about the location of the kidneys, they really want to know where in the body are the kidneys normally located.
The other (less obvious) perspective has to do with the location of the kidneys in relation to their organ system, i.e. the urinary system.
Normal Kidney Location Within The Body
Within the body's physical anatomy, the normal location of the kidneys is towards the back of the abdominal cavity, just above the waist.
If you put your hands on your waist (with fingers toward your abdomen and your thumbs toward your back), your kidneys are located just about where your thumbs are. (Go ahead, try it yourself).
The kidney on the right side is usually slightly lower than the one on the left side of the abdominal cavity... But there is a reason for this.
The liver is located just above the right kidney and the spleen is located just above the left kidney. The liver occupies more space in the abdominal cavity than the spleen and it pushes the right kidney slightly downwards, hence the reason why the right kidney is usually slightly lower than the left.
Kidney Location Within The Urinary System
The kidneys sit at the top of the urinary system. This location places them in a strategic position that enables them to operate effectively, as an integral component of the urinary system.
They are connected to the ureters, which are responsible for conveying wastes (in the form of urine) from the kidneys to the bladder.
The kidneys' strategic location also allow them to effectively filter the blood. The renal artery can easily deliver blood to the kidneys, where waste substances are removed and eliminated from the body.
The filtered blood is then returned to the heart via the renal vein, and distributed to the rest of the body.
Non-typical Kidney Location
Sometimes, the kidneys can be located in non-typical areas of the abdominal cavity.
In rare cases, one or both kidneys may be located much lower in the abdomen or the pelvic cavity instead of higher in the abdominal cavity. In medical terms, when an organ is located in a non-typical location or position, this is referred to as situs perversus.
This is not necessarily a problem, once the kidney(s) is/ are functioning properly. In some cases, however, problems can arise especially in the case of pregnancy. As the fetus begins to develop in the womb this could sometimes place pressure on the kidney(s) and cause acute renal failure.
For this reason, the location of the kidneys becomes an important consideration for women who plan on becoming pregnant. Having this information can help to highlight any risks associated with kidney location, prior to pregnancy. It also allows the health care professional to closely monitor kidney function, during pregnancy, to detect any early signs of kidney problems.