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Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP) Blood Test
Updated on October 14, 2022
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Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP) Blood Test

A basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a group of tests that can assess your body’s metabolism and chemical balance. It measures kidney function, acid-base, fluids, electrolytes, and blood sugar.1

BMP blood tests are commonly performed to screen for some health conditions. But it can also be part of a routine checkup. 

I asked Dr. Rizza Mira, a general practitioner and our resident medical reviewer at KnowYourDNA, on everything there is to know about a basic metabolic panel.

Quick Facts on Basic Metabolic Panel

  • Measures 8 different substances
  • Provides insights on your metabolism and chemical balance
  • Can be taken as part of a routine checkup
  • May help diagnose metabolic disorders
  • Requires you to fast for at least 8 hours before the test

Why Take A Basic Metabolic Panel Test?

A healthcare provider can use a basic metabolic panel test to screen and diagnose diseases or monitor a health condition's progress.2

It can reveal health issues with your kidneys, lungs, or pancreas. A BMP also gives a general picture of important processes in your body, namely your metabolism and chemical balance. 

“Nearly all body organs participate in metabolism. But BMP gives a general impression of the functioning of organs that do most of the work to maintain homeostasis,” says Dr. Mira.

What Does A BMP Test For?

A metabolic panel tests for eight substances:

  • Glucose — the form of sugar that the body uses to make energy
  • Creatinine — a waste product that is normally filtered out by the kidneys
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) — a byproduct of protein metabolism
  • Calcium — needed for healthy bones, hormones, nerves, and muscles
  • Chloride an electrolyte regulated by your kidneys
  • Potassium — an electrolyte involved in heart and muscle function
  • Sodium — an electrolyte that affects the fluid balance and acidity
  • Bicarbonate (carbon dioxide or CO2) — measures carbon dioxide in your blood

Doctors can check your kidney function with your creatinine, BUN, sodium, potassium, and calcium levels. They can use your blood glucose to assess both your kidneys and pancreas.

Calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate are called an electrolyte panel. Healthy electrolyte levels are necessary for heart, muscle, and nerve function.

Electrolytes also help your body maintain normal acid-base levels and fluid balance. Imbalances can lead to metabolic acidosis (acidic body pH) or metabolic alkalosis (alkaline body pH). 

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When Should You Get A BMP Test?

There are various reasons why your doctor will order a basic metabolic panel. 

Routine Checkup

A basic metabolic panel is commonly ordered as a routine checkup. It will give your doctor a general overview of your health. 

For this purpose, BMP tests are used to screen for diseases. Depending on what they find, they might order more tests.   

Emergency Care

If you need emergency treatment, a basic metabolic panel is one of the best ways to get a general picture of your health.

It will give them an idea of what is causing your illness, how serious your condition is, and what they can do to treat you.

Monitor Your Health

A basic metabolic panel can monitor some health problems, such as kidney disease and diabetes. It lets your doctor know if your condition is getting better or worse. 

The test also lets them know how you respond to treatment and whether your medications are causing negative effects on your metabolic markers.

Diagnose Kidney Problems

The basic metabolic panel is also used in combination with other tests to help doctors diagnose diseases affecting the kidneys.

How to Get Your Basic Metabolic Panel

A basic metabolic panel is performed once your healthcare provider orders the test. It involves drawing blood from a vein in your arm.

The blood sample can be collected in a medical clinic, a hospital, or a laboratory. But there are direct access labs where you can purchase a BMP online without a doctor’s order. 

If you buy a BMP online, you must go to a nearby accredited lab for a blood draw.

Can You Take Metabolic Testing At Home?

Yes. But it won’t be the same type of test.

Online health testing companies currently do not offer a basic metabolic panel. But you can take at-home tests that check for the same markers as a BMP.

For example, you can order separate tests that measure your blood glucose, BUN, and creatinine. These tests usually require blood samples taken with a finger prick method.

How Much Does A Metabolic Panel Test Cost?

The cost of a BMP will vary depending on these factors:

  • Whether you have health insurance or not
  • The medical center where your blood sample is drawn
  • The lab where your sample is processed   

You can contact your insurance provider and doctor’s office to learn the actual cost. If you don’t have health insurance or buy the test online, it may cost you around $20 to $50.

How Does A BMP Lab Test Work?

Here’s what you can expect from a basic metabolic panel:

Fasting Before A BMP Blood Test

Your doctor may ask you to fast for at least 6 to 8 hours before the test. This means you can’t eat or drink anything other than water. Even coffee and tea are not allowed.

If you’re on medications, it’s unlikely for your doctor to ask you to stop taking them. But you should still tell them which medications and supplements you're taking.    

Collecting Your Blood Sample

To obtain a blood sample, a phlebotomist or hospital technician will first tie an elastic band around your upper arm to make the vein more visible.

Next, they will swab your arm with an alcohol pad to clean the area. The technician will then insert a tiny needle into your vein and begin to draw blood into a vial. 

After a minute or two, there should be enough blood in the vial. The technician will pull out the needle and stop the bleeding with a cotton swab and a bandage.

This entire process normally takes less than 5 minutes. And you may feel a slight sting when the needle is first inserted or when it’s removed.

After You Take The Test

Like most blood tests, you may feel a dull pain for a few hours. There may also be some slight bruising. But you can continue your normal daily activities, including driving and working.

However, you should avoid lifting anything heavy. If you had to fast before the test, you might want to bring a small snack so you can eat it immediately after.

How to Interpret Your BMP Test Results

Receiving Your Test Results

You should receive your results within days after giving your blood sample. The doctor’s office will contact you directly if they’re ready, or you can receive updates on an online patient portal.

Results may also be sent to you by mail. 

Interpreting Your Test Results

Your report may include the following:

  • The marker being tested
  • Your levels for each marker
  • The unit of measurement
  • The reference range for that test
  • Whether your level is high or low

The reference range are values that are considered healthy. Below is a list of common reference ranges for all eight tests. The normal range values for some tests may vary slightly.

Test/Marker Reference Range (ages 18-60) Reference range (aged 60 and above)
Glucose 70 to 99 mg/dL70 to 99 mg/dL
Creatinine 0.6 to 1.1 mg/dL for women 0.7 to 1.3 mg/dL for men0.6 to 1.2 mg/dL for women0.8 to 1.3 mg/dL for men
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)6 to 20 mg/dL8 to 23 mg/dL
Calcium8.6 to 10.2 mg/dL8.6 to 10.2 mg/dL
Potassium3.5 to 5.1 mmol/L3.5 to 5.1 mmol/L
Sodium 136 to 145 mmol/L132 to 146 mmol/L (adults over the age of 90)
Chloride 98 to 107 mmol/L98 to 111 mmol/L (adults over the age of 90)
Bicarbonate23 to 29 mmol/L23 to 31 mmol/L (adults aged 61-90)
20 to 29 (adults over the age of 90)

Blood Glucose Levels 

Here’s what your fasting blood sugar levels may look like:

  • 100 to 125 mg/dL — may be a sign of early diabetes (prediabetes)
  • Above 125 mg/dL — a possible sign of diabetes

Your pancreas is responsible for regulating blood sugar. Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) may occur in diabetics who have taken too much insulin or diabetes medications.3 

It can be a sign of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). People with liver disease, kidney problems, or advanced heart disease may also show signs of hypoglycemia.3

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) Levels

Blood Urea Nitrogen is a by-product of the body’s metabolic processes. 

Low BUN levels may mean you have a liver problem or that you’re not eating enough protein. A high BUN level means you could have a problem with your kidneys.4 

Other possible causes of high BUN include:4

  • Very high protein diets
  • Dehydration
  • Taking certain antibiotics
  • Urinary tract obstruction
  • Congestive heart failure

Creatinine Levels

In a person with healthy kidneys, creatinine is normally excreted in the urine. 

A high creatinine level may be a sign of poor kidney function. Other possible causes are dehydration, and eating too much protein.5

Low creatinine levels may suggest you have liver disease. These results are common in people with low body weight or muscle mass.5

Calcium Levels

Calcium, sodium, potassium, and chloride are electrolytes that regulate many body functions.

“Your body helps maintain electrolytes within normal levels so they can do their job. If they get imbalanced, it can give clues to kidney, thyroid, or liver problems,” says Dr. Mira.

High calcium levels or hypercalcemia may indicate an overactive parathyroid gland. Low levels may be caused by certain medications, like rifampin (antibiotic) and anti-seizure drugs.6

Other causes of low calcium or hypocalcemia are:6

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Underactive parathyroid gland 
  • Kidney diseases

Potassium Levels

High potassium levels or hyperkalemia are commonly caused by kidney disease, diabetes, excessive alcohol use, and certain medications.6

Low potassium levels or hypokalemia may be caused by:6

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Medications like laxatives and diuretics
  • Chronic diarrhea and vomiting  

Sodium Levels

High sodium levels or hypernatremia are usually due to kidney problems, liver disease, or dehydration. Meanwhile, low sodium levels or hyponatremia may be caused by:6

  • Kidney, liver, and heart diseases
  • Problems with your adrenal glands
  • Chronic diarrhea and vomiting
  • Medications like diuretics, antidepressants, and pain medications  

Chloride Levels

High chloride levels or hyperchloremia are a sign of metabolic acidosis. Kidney disease or dehydration can lead to this condition.6

Low chloride levels or hypochloremia are signs of metabolic alkalosis. Kidney problems, congestive heart failure, severe diarrhea, and vomiting may cause it.6

Bicarbonate Levels

Having too much bicarbonate in your blood is a sign of metabolic alkalosis. It can be caused by chronic diarrhea, vomiting, adrenal gland problems, anorexia, and lung disease.6

Low bicarbonate levels suggest there is metabolic acidosis. Some known causes are:6

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver problems
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Aspirin overdose

Is It Different From A Comprehensive Metabolic Panel?

Yes. A basic metabolic panel is different from a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP). 

The latter includes the same tests as a basic panel but with the addition of 6 tests for liver function. These tests (known collectively as a liver panel) check these levels:

  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
  • Alkaline phosphatase
  • Albumin
  • Total protein
  • Bilirubin

Doctors will order a comprehensive metabolic panel if they also want to see how well your liver is functioning. A basic metabolic panel can’t provide an in-depth picture of your liver’s health. 

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Resources

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  1. Basic Metabolic Panel, Serum” Mayocliniclabs.com 
  2. Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP)” ClevelandClinic.org
  3. Hypoglycemia” StatPearls
  4. Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) Test” ClevelandClinic.org
  5. Renal Function Tests” StatPearls
  6. Electrolytes” StatPearls
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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