Renal artery

The renal arteries originate from the abdominal aorta  and enter the renal hila to supply the kidneys.  Any variant in arterial supply is important to clinicians undertaking surgery or other interventional renal procedures.

They arise from the abdominal aorta at the L1-2 vertebral body level, inferior to the origin of the superior mesenteric artery

The right renal artery courses inferiorly and passes posterior to the IVC and the right renal vein to reach the renal hilum. The left renal artery is much shorter and arises slightly more inferior to the right main renal artery. The left renal artery courses more horizontally, posterior to the left renal vein to enter the renal hilum. Renal arteries are between 4-6 cm in length and usually 5-6 mm in diameter.

Each renal artery gives off small branches in its proximal course, prior to dividing into dorsal and ventral rami. These branches are very small and often not visualised on imaging studies:

The dorsal and ventral rami divide into segmental branches within the renal hilum before entering the parenchyma: apical, anterior superior, anterior inferior (middle), inferior and posterior segmental renal arteries. These then divide into lobar branches which successively branch into interlobar, arcuate, and interlobular arteries. The afferent arterioles, which supply the glomeruli, originate from the interlobular arteries.

  • can be technically difficult and only completed in 60% of patients
  • normal peak systolic velocity is 150-180 cm/s and elevation beyond this may indicate a renal artery stenosis of >60% 4
  • normal renal arterial resistive index is ≈ 0.60
  • accessory renal arteries: common; occur in ~30% of the population
  • aberrant renal arteries: enter via the renal capsule rather than the hilum
  • early branching (or prehilar branching): occurs in ~10% of the population
    • occurs within 1.5-2.0 cm of origin in the left renal artery or in the retrocaval segment of the right renal artery
    • important to recognise in renal transplant for successful anastomoses
Abdominal and pelvic anatomy
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Article information

rID: 16696
Section: Anatomy
Tag: kidneys
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Renal arteries
  • Renal artery anatomy

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: renal artery variants
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    Figure 2: branches of the abdominal aorta
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    Case 1: renal artery angiogram
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    Case 2: normal renal arteries on CT
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    Case 3: normal renal MRA
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    Case 4: bilateral accessory renal arteries (variant)
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