The Renal Vasculature: What the Radiologist Needs to Know
Ashley Leckie, Mary Jiayi Tao, Sabarish Narayanasamy, Korosh Khalili, Nicola Schieda, Satheesh Krishna
Radiographics . Sep-Oct 2021;41(5):1531-1548. doi: 10.1148/rg.2021200174. Epub 2021 Jul 30.
The physiologic role of the kidneys is dependent on the normal structure and functioning of the renal vasculature. Knowledge and understanding of the embryologic basis of the renal vasculature are necessary for the radiologist. Common anatomic variants involving the renal artery (supernumerary arteries and prehilar branching) and renal vein (supernumerary veins, delayed venous confluence, retroaortic or circumaortic vein) may affect procedures like renal transplantation, percutaneous biopsy, and aortic aneurysm repair. Venous compression syndromes (anterior and posterior nutcracker syndrome) can be symptomatic and can be diagnosed with a combination of radiologic features. Renal artery stenosis is commonly atherosclerotic and is diagnosed with Doppler US, CT angiography, or MR angiography. Fibromuscular dysplasia, the second most common cause of renal artery narrowing, has a characteristic string-of-beads appearance resulting from multifocal stenoses and dilatations. Manifestations of renal vasculitis differ depending on whether the affected vessels are large, medium, or small. Renal vascular injury is graded according to the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST) renal injury scale, which defines vascular injury and active bleeding in renal injuries. Both renal arteries and veins are affected by primary neoplasms or secondarily by neoplasms from adjacent structures. Differentiation between bland thrombus and tumor thrombus and the extent of involvement dictate management in malignancies, especially renal cell carcinoma. Aneurysms, pseudoaneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, and arteriovenous fistulas can affect renal vessels and can be diagnosed with specific imaging features. The radiologist has a critical role in identification of specific imaging characteristics and establishing the diagnosis in the varied pathologic conditions affecting the renal vasculature, which is critical for directing management. Thus, the renal vasculature should be an integral part of radiologists' checklist.
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