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Eur Radiol. 2013 Oct;23(10):2899-905. doi: 10.1007/s00330-013-2900-4. Epub 2013 May 28.

Heritability, determinants and reference values of renal length: a family-based population study.

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Department of Nephrology, Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland.



In this population-based study, reference values were generated for renal length, and the heritability and factors associated with kidney length were assessed.


Anthropometric parameters and renal ultrasound measurements were assessed in randomly selected nuclear families of European ancestry (Switzerland). The adjusted narrow sense heritability of kidney size parameters was estimated by maximum likelihood assuming multivariate normality after power transformation. Gender-specific reference centiles were generated for renal length according to body height in the subset of non-diabetic non-obese participants with normal renal function.


We included 374 men and 419 women (mean ± SD, age 47 ± 18 and 48 ± 17 years, BMI 26.2 ± 4 and 24.5 ± 5 kg/m(2), respectively) from 205 families. Renal length was 11.4 ± 0.8 cm in men and 10.7 ± 0.8 cm in women; there was no difference between right and left renal length. Body height, weight and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) were positively associated with renal length, kidney function negatively, age quadratically, whereas gender and hypertension were not. The adjusted heritability estimates of renal length and volume were 47.3 ± 8.5 % and 45.5 ± 8.8 %, respectively (P < 0.001).


The significant heritability of renal length and volume highlights the familial aggregation of this trait, independently of age and body size. Population-based references for renal length provide a useful guide for clinicians.


• Renal length and volume are heritable traits, independent of age and size. • Based on a European population, gender-specific reference values/percentiles are provided for renal length. • Renal length correlates positively with body length and weight. • There was no difference between right and left renal lengths in this study. • This negates general teaching that the left kidney is larger and longer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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