A BMP gives a doctor insight into how different chemical processes are functioning in the body. It’s often used as part of a routine medical examination or to help diagnose a medical condition.
This guide provides a description of metabolism and the eight blood tests included in a basic metabolic panel. It also gives information about why the panel might be needed, what’s considered a normal range of results, and what the test can tell your doctor.
The purpose of a basic metabolic panel is to determine:
A BMP consists of eight separate blood tests that measure the levels of certain substances in your bloodstream:
Doctors may recommend a BMP to determine how different metabolic processes are functioning in your body and to detect chemical imbalances. A BMP can also suggest whether further tests are required to investigate possible health issues.
Your doctor may recommend a BMP:
A BMP requires you to visit a clinic or laboratory to have a blood sample drawn for analysis.
The clinician can obtain a sufficient sample in one visit for all eight individual blood tests that are part of a BMP.
You may be asked to fast for 8 to 12 hours before a BMP to obtain the most accurate results. It’s important to follow any instructions that you’re given. Fasting isn’t required if the test is performed in an emergency visit or urgent care.
Advise your clinician of any medication, vitamins, or supplements that you’re taking, as these may affect your results.
Metabolism refers to a series of complex chemical processes in the body. This involves converting food into energy at a cellular level and using that energy to help our bodies function and grow. These processes include:
The food we eat is broken down by the digestive system into amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars, which are then carried to cells through the bloodstream. These compounds are metabolized, and energy is either used immediately by the body or stored in tissues, muscles, liver, and body fat.
A metabolic disorder results when some chemical processes are not functioning properly, such as:
When metabolism is disrupted, there may be too much or too little of certain substances in the body, such as those measured by a basic metabolic panel. For example:
A basic metabolic panel is a series of eight blood tests measuring blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, glucose, carbon dioxide (bicarbonate), chloride, potassium, sodium, and calcium. It’s also known as an electrolyte panel, chemistry panel, or informally as a chem 8.
A BMP provides an overview of your body’s metabolism, including kidney health, blood glucose levels, electrolyte levels, and acid/base balance.
The kidneys filter chemical waste products through urine to help balance levels of salt, minerals, and water in the body. A BMP measures levels of two of these waste products in the bloodstream.
Abnormal levels of urea nitrogen or creatinine in the kidneys can indicate problems with muscle, liver, or kidney function.
Levels of glucose in the body provide insight into kidney, thyroid, liver, and pancreatic health. Glucose is a simple sugar that forms when carbohydrates are broken down by the intestine to create fuel for cells. This energy source is carried to cells through the bloodstream.
Cells need a steady and constant level of glucose to function. Elevated glucose levels may be a sign of diabetes, kidney disease, pancreatitis, or hyperthyroidism. Low levels of glucose may indicate hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, or liver disease.
Electrolytes are minerals that help to regulate the body’s fluid levels and acid-base balance. Minerals are consumed in our diet and keep the nerves, heart, muscles, and brain functioning properly. They also help to move nutrients and wastes through the body.
A BMP measures the amount of sodium, potassium, carbon dioxide, chloride, and calcium in the bloodstream. Other electrolytes found in the body but not included in a BMP include phosphate and magnesium.
An acid-base imbalance occurs when electrolyte levels become too high or too low. Abnormal levels may indicate heart disease, kidney disease, or dehydration.
Calcium is essential for blood clotting, bone formation, and cell, muscle, nerve, and heart function. Most of the calcium in the body is stored in the bones, with about 1% in the bloodstream. Elevated or decreased calcium levels in the blood may result from diet, although in some cases, it may indicate a hormone imbalance or problems with the kidneys, bones, thyroid, or pancreas. A BMP measures only total calcium, which is calcium that is bound to proteins, not ionized calcium.
A BMP requires a sample of your blood for analysis. A health practitioner typically draws a sample from your inside forearm near the elbow.
Babies who require a BMP may have blood drawn from their heel with a tiny lancet or needle.
Your doctor can request a basic metabolic panel during a routine wellness exam or if there are concerns about your health. You may also order a BMP directly from some websites.
If your physician is concerned about any of the results of your blood tests, you may need further tests before a diagnosis can be confirmed. Many factors can lead to results that are outside of a normal range on one or more of your BMP blood tests, including:
When a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor can recommend a specific plan of treatment.
A BMP measures the levels of blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, glucose, carbon dioxide, chloride, potassium, sodium, and calcium in your body.
BMPs are processed by a machine. The results may be available within hours at a hospital emergency department or within one to two days, depending on the laboratory.
While the range of results considered normal varies by laboratory, the following are typical reference ranges for a BMP, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
It is best to review your test results with a physician. Factors such as your gender, age, medical history, and medications you are taking must be considered when determining if your results are significant.
You can order a BMP directly from some websites by selecting the type of test and the lab at which you would like it performed. Once you have completed your order, you will receive instructions on preparing for the test and a requisition that you take with you to a laboratory. Test results are typically accessed on a website when available.
There are different types of glucose tests. The BMP typically includes a fasting glucose test, which requires you to not eat or drink for 8 to 12 hours prior to the blood draw.
Other glucose tests that may be done separately include a random glucose test, which is taken at any time of day, and an oral glucose tolerance test, which is taken one to two hours after consuming a sugary glucose drink.
The comprehensive metabolic panel includes 14 tests: all of the tests from a BMP and additional tests for proteins and liver enzymes. A CMP provides a more complete look at organ function and can help diagnose diabetes, liver, and kidney disease.
The additional tests include:
To learn more about conditions and body functions related to the tests of a basic metabolic panel, use the following resources.
|American Diabetes Association||www.diabetes.org||Information on diabetes|
|American Lung Association||www.lung.org||Information on how the lungs work|
|U.S. Department of Health||www.niddk.nih.gov||Information on how the kidneys work|
|Merck Manual||www.merckmanuals.com||An overview of how electrolytes work|