Intrathoracic kidney

Last revised by Mostafa El-Feky on 25 Dec 2022

An intrathoracic kidney is a very rare form of ectopic kidney. There has been no reported increased incidence of stones or infections as can be seen with other forms of ectopic kidneys. The adrenal glands are usually normal in location in most cases.

Thoracic ectopic kidney is rare with male predominance and incidence of 1/10,000 ectopic kidneys. Left-sided intrathoracic kidney is more common 3.

Intrathoracic kidneys are usually asymptomatic, however in symptomatic patients presenting symptoms include pneumonia, dyspnea, and cough 3.

Renal ascent to thoracic cage is limited by the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic eventration or Bochdalek hernia can lead to an intrathoracic kidney 2.

Appears as a well-defined lower thoracic opacity.

The diagnosis can be easily confirmed by ultrasound. In most cases, the thoracic kidney rests on the diaphragm, so an acoustic window of the liver or spleen can be used to demonstrate it.

Detects the associated herniated other abdominal organs, renal pedicle, and ureteric course. The renal vessels always have normal anatomical origin.

See posterior mediastinal mass (differential diagnosis).

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: with congenital diaphragmatic hernia
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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3a: on x-ray
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  • Case 3b: on CT
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