Ectopic kidney

Last revised by Ammar Ashraf on 21 Jul 2023

An ectopic kidney, also known as renal ectopia, is a congenital renal anomaly characterized by the abnormal location of one or both of the kidneys.

They can occur in several forms:

The estimated incidence of an ectopic kidney varies by location: 

Patients are most often asymptomatic. Normal pathology (e.g. infection, calculus) can affect ectopic kidneys, leading to non-classical abdominal pain. Ectopic kidneys are also prone to traumatic injury due to their abnormal location in the lower abdomen, pelvis or thorax. 

During normal embryological development, there is cephalic migration of the kidneys to their normal retroperitoneal location and an ectopic location is a result of arrested migration. 

The kidney during its normal ascent has multiple aortoiliac branches, which degenerate when the kidney reaches its normal location. Here they develop new renal branches from the aorta. However, during an arrested ascent the ectopic kidney tends to retain some of the older aortoiliac vessels.

This is frequently the first modality to diagnose the ectopic kidney, which most often is incidentally detected. 

Contrast-enhanced CT scan depicts the vascular and non-vascular anatomy

May additionally help in the functional and structural assessment

Treatment options vary based on whether there are symptoms or complications. If an obstruction is present, surgery may be required for correction of the position of the kidney to allow better drainage of urine. In presence of extensive renal damage, nephrectomy is indicated.

  • hypertension is more frequently encountered in cases with more than one renal artery
  • infection and calculus formation may be more prevalent due to problems with urine drainage
  • if reflux is present then renal failure may result

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1
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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3
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  • Case 4
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  • Case 5
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  • Case 6: subdiaphragmatic
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  • Case 7
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  • Case 8: intrathoracic
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  • Case 9
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  • Case 10
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  • Case 11
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  • Case 12: pelvic kidney
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  • Case 13
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  • Case 14: crossed renal ectopia
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