The Kidney: Major Divisions & Structures

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Blood Supply of the Kidneys

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 The Sum of different Parts
  • 1:05 Renal
  • 1:45 Renal Cortex and Renal Medulla
  • 2:37 Renal Pyramid and…
  • 3:07 Renal Pelvis
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Learn about the major layers of the kidneys, like the renal cortex and renal medulla. Find out about the inner parts of the kidneys, including the renal papilla, renal pelvis, renal pyramid, and renal hilum.

The Sum of Different Parts

Cross section of a human kidney
Kidney Cross Section

When you look at a human being, you see this one solid entity. However, if we just stop and think for a second, what we actually see is a combination of parts fitting together to make a whole. In the case of the human body, there are the eyes, ears, and nose; the legs, arms, and hair; and then, not to mention all of the things we can't see inside, like the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

All of these structures combine together to make up a single human being. In a very similar fashion, every single organ in your body looks like one unit, one solid entity. However, if we look really closely, we'll find out that they have many different pieces fitting together to make one functional unit. Let's find out how this works in the context of our kidneys.


Many different parts associated with our kidneys have a sort of nom de plume. Think of our kidneys as writers masquerading as someone else. Our kidneys use the word 'renal' to refer to themselves when 'in disguise.' The reality of the situation is the word 'renal' refers to something that has to do with our kidneys. Hence, the kidneys can try and hide their identity under the word 'renal,' but you'll never be tricked again now that you know this little tidbit of information. It's important you remember this as we move on in our lesson.

Cortex and Medulla

Our kidneys are multilayered structures, kind of like avocados. If you've ever sliced an avocado in half, you'd have a middle layer, the avocado pit, and then a surrounding outer layer that is the edible part of the avocado. Likewise, your kidneys have an outer and an inner layer. The outer portion of the kidney, located in between the renal capsule and the renal medulla, is called the renal cortex. The renal cortex is like the fleshy part of the avocado.

Deeper to the renal cortex, like our avocado pit, is the inner portion of the kidney, called the renal medulla. The renal capsule, if you were wondering, is like the avocado's skin. It's a very thin layer covering the kidney on the outside.

Renal Pyramid and Renal Papilla

The renal papilla is the capstone of the renal pyramids.
Renal Papilla

The renal medulla has several cone-shaped tissue masses called renal pyramids; they sort of look like the Pyramids of Giza lying on their side. The very tip of the Pyramid of Giza is known as the capstone. The capstone of the renal pyramid (the tip of the renal pyramid) is called the renal papilla, and it helps excrete urine formed in the cortex and medulla of the kidney into the renal pelvis.

The Renal Pelvis

The renal pelvis is a structure that collects urine formed in the kidney and channels it into the ureter. The ureter is located in the renal hilum, which is a groove in the kidney where the ureter, renal artery, vein, and nerves are located.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account