Renal Artery: Definition & Function

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  • 0:01 Renal Artery
  • 0:40 Function
  • 1:41 Renal Artery Facts
  • 2:35 Arterial Narrowing
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Ellen Ellis
Most people have two renal arteries, which are important blood vessels transporting oxygenated blood into each of the kidneys so they can function properly. In this lesson, discover the path this oxygenated blood takes from your heart to the kidneys.

Renal Artery

In medicine and anatomy, the word renal refers to anything related to the kidney. For instance, renal failure is a failure of the kidneys. Often, the words we use as scientific terms - especially medical terms - are based on Latin words. 'Renal' comes from the Latin word for kidney. You have two kidneys, and the main functions of these organs are to remove waste from the bloodstream.

Arteries are numerous in your body. They are blood vessels that are responsible for (with a couple of exceptions) carrying oxygenated blood through the body. Your renal artery, then, is a blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood to your kidneys.


You have two renal arteries, one to supply each kidney. In the human body, the kidneys are located towards the lower back. If you've ever heard of a kidney punch, you know where these sensitive organs are. All arteries in the body originate with the aorta, your largest artery and the one that originates from the left ventricle of the heart. The renal artery branches off the portion of the aorta that runs through the abdominal cavity, called the abdominal aorta.

The renal artery enters the kidney at the point at which it curves in. A kidney bean has the same shape. The renal artery enters through an opening called the hilum. Once inside the kidney, the renal artery branches off into smaller arteries to supply blood to the interior parts of the organ. Once the blood has been used in the kidney and is depleted of oxygen, it exits via the renal vein, which runs through the hilum, next to the renal artery. Each of your kidneys get a little over one liter of oxygenated blood every minute, courtesy of your renal arteries.

Renal Artery Facts

The renal arteries are approximately half a centimeter in diameter, although their size can vary depending on conditions in your body. Your renal artery can compensate for low or high blood pressure and can adapt to stress by contracting or expanding to allow more or less blood to flow to the kidneys. It is the smooth muscle in the interior wall of the arteries that controls this, and it responds to signals sent to receptors on its surface.

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