What Is a Basic Metabolic Panel?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on February 29, 2024
8 min read

A basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a blood test that checks the levels of different substances in your blood. These substances are all involved in metabolism, or the body’s process of turning food into energy. It happens throughout your whole body, not just your digestive system. The blood test gives your doctor important information about your health and how some of your body's systems are working.

Doctors use BMPs for many reasons, including:

  • Screening (or running regular health checks) for disease
  • Diagnosing or monitoring a disease
  • Confirming that a medication or treatment is working
  • Checking your general health

For example, it helps them check:

  • Kidney health
  • Blood sugar
  • The acidity of your blood
  • The balance of fluids and electrolytes in your blood (for example, whether you’re dehydrated)

Your doctor will probably order this test every once in a while to keep an eye on your health. It’s a normal part of getting a checkup.

But if your doctor is concerned about your health, they might want you to get it sooner. They might suggest this test if you have:

  • Fatigue
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Breathing problems

A basic metabolic panel checks your blood sample for eight different substances in your blood, four of which include:

  • Glucose. This is your body’s main source of energy. When it’s in your blood, it’s called blood sugar.
  • Calcium. Calcium keeps bones strong and ensures your blood clots properly. It also helps your muscles, nerves, and heart to work well.
  • Blood urea nitrogen. Your kidneys filter the blood for this type of waste and get rid of it through your pee. Seeing how much of it is in your blood can show how well your kidneys are working.
  • Creatinine. This substance is made by your muscles. Then, your kidneys remove it from your blood. Creatinine levels show how well your kidneys are working.

A BMP also measures four substances called electrolytes. These minerals help carry small doses of electricity throughout your body. They help power your muscles and nervous system, keep your blood at a healthy level of acidity, and move water throughout your body.

  • Carbon dioxide. Your carbon dioxide levels show how well your lungs and kidneys are working. You might also hear it called bicarbonate.
  • Chloride. Chloride shows how your body is handling fluids.
  • Potassium. Potassium helps your muscles work and controls your breathing. You get it from the food you eat. Kidneys get rid of the extra.
  • Sodium. This mineral helps move water throughout your body. You get it from the food you eat. The kidneys help get rid of the extra.

A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) is another blood test. It checks for the same substances as a basic metabolic panel blood test, but it also measures chemicals made by the liver. Some of the other substances that a CMP test checks for include:

  • Total protein. This test measures all the proteins (such as albumin and globulins) in your blood. These proteins support your blood vessels and immune system.
  • Albumin. This is a protein made in your liver that carries substances such as enzymes or hormones throughout your body. It also stops your blood vessels from leaking. When your kidneys begin to fail, albumin may leak into your pee, causing low levels in your blood.
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine transaminase (ALT), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). These are all different enzymes, which are proteins that trigger certain processes in your body. Your liver needs enzymes such as ALP, ALT, and AST so it can work the right way. Liver damage can cause enzymes to leak into the blood.
  • Bilirubin. This is a waste product made from old blood cells. The liver gets rid of bilirubin.

Your doctor may order a CMP instead of a BMP to get a better picture of how your organs, including your liver, are working.

A BMP is a kind of blood test. A doctor could do it in their office, or they could refer you to a professional who specializes in taking blood samples. This specialist is called a phlebotomist (fleh-BAHT-to-mist).

These are the steps to a BMP:

  1. Fast (if recommended). Usually, your doctor will ask you to fast for 8 hours before your blood test. This means not eating or drinking anything except water. Some people prefer to schedule their blood test first thing in the morning so that most of the fasting is while they’re asleep. Ask your doctor if you need to fast and whether you should take your medications as usual.
  2. Wear the right clothes and drink plenty of water. Wear a short-sleeved shirt or other clothing that provides easy access to your arm. Also, have a glass of plain water. This keeps more fluid in your veins (dehydration can make blood tests harder). Both these tips make it easier for the doctor to draw blood.
  3. Go to the health care center. This could be your doctor’s office or a phlebotomy center. If you go to a phlebotomist, don’t forget to check whether they take your insurance.
  4. Sit down. The doctor will ask if you prefer to have blood taken from your right or left arm. Then, they’ll look at the inside of your forearm to find a good vein.
  5. Let them prepare. They’ll clean the area with a disinfectant wipe. Then, they’ll wrap a tourniquet (similar to a giant rubber band) around your upper arm. This causes the blood to pool in your veins.
  6. Relax your arm. Take a deep breath and look away. Relaxed muscles make it easier for the doctor to draw blood. When you’re ready, they’ll put a small needle in your arm. It might feel like a quick pinch or prick. Then they’ll collect your blood in a test tube.
  7. Get a bandage. When the doctor is finished collecting your blood, they’ll remove the tourniquet and take the needle out. They’ll hand you a cotton ball to press against the place the needle entered. Then, they’ll put a bandage on the area.

Although eight tests are run during a BMP, only one to two vials or test tubes of blood are drawn.

The whole thing takes only a few minutes. Afterward, the blood sample is sent to a lab where scientists can study it. The results should be ready in a day or two.

After the blood test, you might notice some bruising around the area. This is normal and should get better quickly.

After a few days, you’ll get your test report, which will usually list the substances that were measured. They’ll give you the result for each substance. Your results are measured as milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L), or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). These are all ways of describing how much of something is present in a certain amount of blood. The report will also give you the normal range of results.

Your doctor can help you understand your basic metabolic panel results. If any of the results are not normal, it may mean that you have an underlying medical condition. Your doctor will likely order more tests to confirm any diagnosis.

Normal BMP values

There isn’t a single “right” result for a blood test. Instead, healthy results fall within a certain range, not too high and not too low. For some tests, what results are considered normal depends on your age or sex.

This chart shows some standard ranges for BMP results:

TestHealthy range
Glucose70-110 mg/dL
Calcium8.2-10.2 mg/dL
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)8-23 mg/dL (adults)
Lower in children
Creatinine0.6-1.2 mg/dL (adults)
0.2-0.7 mg/dL (children)
Carbon dioxide22-26 mEq/L (artery)
21-28 mEq/L (vein)
Chloride96-106 mEq/L
Potassium3.5-5.0 mEq/L
Sodium136-142 mEq/L

Different labs also might have different definitions of normal ranges.

Abnormal BMP values

If you get an abnormal result, it doesn’t automatically mean that something is wrong. Many things, including medications and foods, can impact your results. Also, everybody is different, so some healthy people might naturally have results outside of the normal range.

Talk to your doctor for help understanding your results. They’ll consider your results in light of your symptoms, medical history, and other factors. This will help them make informed decisions about what steps to take next.

TestWhat an Abnormal Result Could Mean
GlucoseHigh glucose (or blood sugar) could suggest diabetes. Other times, abnormal results could be a sign of thyroid disease, kidney disease, or liver disease.
CalciumAn abnormal calcium result might suggest kidney failure, liver disease, parathyroid disease, thyroid disease, or Paget’s disease.
BUNA high BUN result can be a sign of kidney disease. It also can indicate congestive heart failure, urinary tract obstruction, bleeding in your digestive system, shock, severe burns, or malnutrition. It could also be caused by other things, such as dehydration, certain medications, and a high-protein diet.
CreatinineAn abnormal creatinine result could indicate kidney problems, muscle problems, malnutrition, and certain problems during pregnancy.
SodiumAn abnormal sodium result could suggest adrenal problems. It could also be caused by dehydration and certain medications.
PotassiumAn abnormal potassium result might suggest kidney disease or diseases that cause your blood to become more acidic. It could also be impacted by certain medications.
ChlorideAn abnormal chloride result could be a sign of Addison's disease, congestive heart failure, or diseases that cause your blood to become more acidic.
Carbon DioxideToo much carbon dioxide (or serum bicarbonate) could indicate kidney failure. Other times, an abnormal result could be a sign of Addison's disease or diseases that make your blood more acidic.

Several factors can affect the accuracy of your bloodwork results, including:‌

From time to time, the lab might make a mistake. If you suspect any of these factors may have affected your basic metabolic panel results, make sure to talk to your doctor.

A BMP is a blood test that provides useful information about your health. Doctors use it to keep an eye on your general health, diagnose and monitor diseases, and see if your medicines are working. The test only takes a few minutes. Afterward, your doctor can help you understand your results.

  • What is included in a basic metabolic panel? A BMP tests the levels of glucose, calcium, BUN, creatinine, sodium, potassium, chloride, and carbon dioxide in your blood.
  • Do you need to fast for a basic metabolic panel? Usually, your doctor will ask you to fast for 8 hours before your blood test. This means not eating or drinking anything except water. Ask your doctor if you need to fast for this test.
  • What is a normal BMP level? Each blood test in the BMP has a range of normal results. The range depends on things such as age, gender, and lab guidelines.
  • What 14 tests are in a CMP? A CMP tests the same eight things as a BMP, plus total protein, bilirubin, albumin, alkaline phosphatase, alanine transaminase, and aspartate aminotransferase.