To determine your general health status; to screen for, diagnose, or monitor a variety of diseases and conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease
Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP)
When you have a routine health exam; when you are ill or being monitored for a specific condition
A blood sample drawn from a vein
Depending on the reason for testing, you may be instructed to fast (drinking nothing but water) for at least 8 hours prior to the blood draw. Follow any instructions you are given by your healthcare practitioner. Be sure your healthcare practitioner knows about all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking.
The basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a group of 8 tests that measures several substances in your blood. It is one of the most commonly ordered lab tests.
The BMP gives your healthcare practitioner important information about the current status of your body’s metabolism (hence the name metabolic panel). The BMP provides information on your blood sugar (glucose) level, the balance of electrolytes and fluids, and the health of your kidneys. Abnormal results, and especially combinations of abnormal results, can indicate a problem that needs to be addressed and may require additional testing.
The BMP includes the following tests:
- Glucose – the primary energy source for the body's cells; a steady supply must be available for use, and a relatively stable level of glucose must be maintained in the blood.
- Calcium – one of the most important minerals in the body; it is essential for the proper functioning of muscles, nerves, and the heart and is required in blood clotting and in the formation of bones.
Electrolytes—these are minerals found in body tissues and blood in the form of dissolved salts. Electrolytes help move nutrients into the body's cells and remove wastes out of cells. They help maintain a healthy water balance and help stabilize the body's acid/base (pH) level. The following 4 tests are commonly called electrolytes:
- Sodium – vital to normal body function, including nerve and muscle function
- Potassium – vital to cell metabolism and muscle function, helping to transmit messages between nerves and muscles
- Bicarbonate (Total CO2) – helps to maintain the body's acid-base balance (pH)
- Chloride – helps to regulate the amount of fluid in the body and maintain the acid-base balance
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) – waste product filtered out of the blood by the kidneys; as kidney function decreases, BUN level rises.
- Creatinine – waste product produced in the muscles; it is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys so blood levels are a good indication of how well the kidneys are working.
- How is it used?
The basic metabolic panel (BMP) may be used to check the health of your kidneys, the status of your electrolyte and acid/base balance, as well as your blood glucose level – all of which are related to your body's metabolism. It can be used to screen for conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease and may also be used to monitor known conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension).
- When is it ordered?
A BMP may be ordered when you have a routine health exam. The panel is also often ordered when you are ill, in the hospital, or in the emergency room. It may be ordered at regular intervals when you have an ongoing or long-term condition that is being monitored.
- What does the test result mean?
Results of the tests that are part of the BMP are typically evaluated together to look for patterns of results. A single abnormal test result may mean something different than if several test results are abnormal.
Results that are out of range on any of the tests included in the BMP can be due to a variety of different conditions, including kidney disease, breathing problems, and complications related to diabetes. Typically, if any results are out of range, one or more follow-up tests are performed to help pinpoint the cause and/or help establish a diagnosis.
View a Sample Report
See the articles on the individual tests for more detailed information about each one, including their reference ranges.
- CO2 (carbon dioxide, bicarbonate)
- BUN (blood urea nitrogen)
- Are these tests always run as a panel?
No. Each of these tests may be ordered individually. However, if healthcare practitioners are interested in monitoring two or more individual BMP components, they may order the entire BMP because it offers more information. Alternatively, they may order individual tests when monitoring specific conditions.
- How is the BMP different than the CMP and why would my doctor order one over the other?
The BMP typically includes 8 tests. The comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) usually includes 14 tests – the 8 from the BMP as well as 2 protein tests (albumin and total protein) and 4 liver tests (ALP, ALT, AST, and bilirubin). Your healthcare provider may order a CMP rather than a BMP if the practitioner wants to get a more complete picture of the health of your organs or to check for specific conditions, such as diabetes or liver disease or kidney disease.
- One of the results from my BMP is slightly out of range. What does this mean?
The results of your BMP are interpreted by your healthcare provider within the context of other tests that you have had done as well as other factors, such as your medical history. A single result that is slightly high or low may or may not have medical significance. There are several reasons why a test result may differ on different days and why it may fall outside a designated reference range.
- Biological variability (different results in the same person at different times): If a healthcare practitioner runs the same test on you on several different occasions, there's a good chance that one result will fall outside a reference range even though you are in good health. For biological reasons, your values can vary from day to day.
- Individual variability (differences in results between different people): References ranges are usually established by collecting results from a large population and determining from the data an expected average (mean) result and expected differences from that average (standard deviation). There are individuals who are healthy but whose tests results, which are normal for them, do not always fall within the expected range of the overall population.
Thus, a test value that falls outside of the established reference range supplied by the laboratory may mean nothing significant. Generally, this is the case when the test value is only slightly higher or lower than the reference range and this is why a healthcare practitioner may repeat a test for you and why the practitioner may look at results from prior times when you had the same test performed.
However, a result outside the range may indicate a problem and warrant further investigation. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your test results in the context of your medical history, physical examination, and other relevant factors to determine whether a result that falls outside of the reference range means something significant for you.
For more, read the articles on Reference Ranges and What They Mean and How Reliable is Laboratory Testing?
- Is there anything else I should know?
A variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can affect the results of the components of the BMP. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking. Likewise, it is important to give a complete history as many other factors can also affect the interpretation of your results.