What are the renal arteries?
The renal arteries are large blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your kidneys. Renal is another word for kidney.
You have two renal arteries. The right renal artery supplies blood to the right kidney, while the left artery sends blood to the left kidney.
What is the purpose of the renal arteries?
The renal arteries are part of the circulatory system. They carry large amounts of blood from the aorta (the heart’s main artery) to the kidneys. Approximately 1/2 cup of blood passes through your kidneys from the renal arteries every minute.
Your kidneys are part of the urinary system. They filter blood waste products and excess fluid, which your body gets rid of when you pee. Healthy kidneys can filter up to 150 quarts of blood every day.
Where is the renal artery?
You have two renal arteries, one for each kidney. The right renal artery connects to the right kidney. The left renal artery connects to the left kidney. Your kidneys sit in the back of your abdomen (belly), just above your waist.
Each renal artery is about 1½ to 2 inches (4 to 6 centimeters) long. The renal arteries start at the abdominal aorta. This branch of the aorta, your heart’s main blood vessel, feeds vessels in your abdomen.
What are the renal artery branches?
Each renal artery enters a kidney at a site called the renal hilum. This area is the entry and exit point for vessels and nerves that feed into the kidneys.
From there, the artery branches into smaller blood vessels throughout the kidney. Branches of the renal artery include:
- Nephrons: Blood from the renal artery flows into tiny filters in the kidneys called nephrons.
- Glomeruli: Clusters of tiny blood vessels in each nephron (the glomeruli) allow waste and water to move into tubules, which filter out impurities. Proteins and blood cells stay in the glomeruli.
- Tubules: As the tubules remove waste, blood vessels alongside the tubules reabsorb the filtered fluid along with nutrients and minerals. Leftover fluid and waste in the tubules become urine.
- Renal vein: Filtered blood leaves the kidneys through the renal vein to circulate through your body.
Conditions and Disorders
What conditions and disorders affect the renal arteries?
Blood flows more slowly through narrowed renal arteries. As a result, pressure builds up in blood vessels throughout the body. Renal artery stenosis can lead to:
How can I protect my renal artery?
If a renal artery blockage affects less than 60% of the artery, it may improve with lifestyle and dietary changes. These steps can keep your renal arteries and kidneys healthy:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet low in cholesterol, fat, salt and sugar.
- Exercise most days of the week.
- Limit your intake of protein and potassium if you have kidney disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Quit smoking and using tobacco products.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I talk to a doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Blood in urine.
- Edema (swelling).
- Inability to pee or frequent urge to pee.
- Nausea, vomiting and weight loss.
- Unexplained fatigue or headaches.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The renal arteries send a large volume of blood to the kidneys every day for filtering. These arteries play a critical role in kidney health. Plaque can build up in them, causing renal artery stenosis. This condition slows blood flow and affects kidney function. You may develop high blood pressure that’s difficult to treat. Your healthcare provider can help you improve your diet and lifestyle to lower the risk of kidney disease.
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