In this paper, an effective model-based approach for computer-aided kidney segmentation of abdominal CT images with anatomic structure consideration is presented. This automatic segmentation system is expected to assist physicians in both clinical diagnosis and educational training. The proposed method is a coarse to fine segmentation approach divided into two stages. First, the candidate kidney region is extracted according to the statistical geometric location of kidney within the abdomen. This approach is applicable to images of different sizes by using the relative distance of the kidney region to the spine. The second stage identifies the kidney by a series of image processing operations. The main elements of the proposed system are: 1) the location of the spine is used as the landmark for coordinate references; 2) elliptic candidate kidney region extraction with progressive positioning on the consecutive CT images; 3) novel directional model for a more reliable kidney region seed point identification; and 4) adaptive region growing controlled by the properties of image homogeneity. In addition, in order to provide different views for the physicians, we have implemented a visualization tool that will automatically show the renal contour through the method of second-order neighborhood edge detection. We considered segmentation of kidney regions from CT scans that contain pathologies in clinical practice. The results of a series of tests on 358 images from 30 patients indicate an average correlation coefficient of up to 88% between automatic and manual segmentation.