Radiologic imaging of the renal parenchyma structure and function

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2016 Jun;12(6):348-59. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2016.44. Epub 2016 Apr 12.


Radiologic imaging has the potential to identify several functional and/or structural biomarkers of acute and chronic kidney diseases that are useful diagnostics to guide patient management. A renal ultrasound examination can provide information regarding the gross anatomy and macrostructure of the renal parenchyma, and ultrasound imaging modalities based on Doppler or elastography techniques can provide haemodynamic and structural information, respectively. CT is also able to combine morphological and functional information, but the use of CT is limited due to the required exposure to X-ray irradiation and a risk of contrast-induced nephropathy following intravenous injection of a radio-contrast agent. MRI can be used to identify a wide range of anatomical and physiological parameters at the tissue and even cellular level, such as tissue perfusion, oxygenation, water diffusion, cellular phagocytic activity, tissue stiffness, and level of renal filtration. The ability of MRI to provide valuable information for most of these parameters within a renal context is still in development and requires more clinical experience, harmonization of technical procedures, and an evaluation of reliability and validity on a large scale.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Kidney / anatomy & histology*
  • Kidney / diagnostic imaging*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Parenchymal Tissue / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography


  • Oxygen