In This Article
In This Article
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.
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.
A metabolic panel tests for eight substances:
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).
BMPs give you an overall picture of how your organs are functioning and if they're properly carrying out important processes. They can tell if you're generally healthy or if there's something wrong, leading to further testing if necessary.
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There are various reasons why your doctor will order a basic metabolic panel.
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.
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.
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.
The basic metabolic panel is also used in combination with other tests to help doctors diagnose diseases affecting the kidneys.
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.
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.
The cost of a BMP will vary depending on these factors:
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.
Here’s what you can expect from a basic metabolic panel:
Your doctor may ask you to fast for at least six to eight 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.
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.
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.
The BMP-testing process goes like this:
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.
Your report may include the following:
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/dL||70 to 99 mg/dL|
|Creatinine||0.6 to 1.1 mg/dL for women 0.7 to 1.3 mg/dL for men||0.6 to 1.2 mg/dL for women0.8 to 1.3 mg/dL for men|
|Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)||6 to 20 mg/dL||8 to 23 mg/dL|
|Calcium||8.6 to 10.2 mg/dL||8.6 to 10.2 mg/dL|
|Potassium||3.5 to 5.1 mmol/L||3.5 to 5.1 mmol/L|
|Sodium||136 to 145 mmol/L||132 to 146 mmol/L (adults over the age of 90)|
|Chloride||98 to 107 mmol/L||98 to 111 mmol/L (adults over the age of 90)|
|Bicarbonate||23 to 29 mmol/L||23 to 31 mmol/L (adults aged 61-90)|
20 to 29 (adults over the age of 90)
Here’s what your fasting blood sugar levels may look like:
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 is a by-product of the body’s metabolic processes.
Low BUN levels may mean you have a liver problem or 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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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 six tests for liver function. These tests (known collectively as a liver panel) check these levels:
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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