• Also Known As:
  • BMP
  • Chemistry Panel
  • Chemistry Screen
  • Chem 7
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Test Quick Guide

The basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a test that includes eight different measurements. It provides information about your body’s energy use, which is known as metabolism.

The BMP requires a blood sample that normally is taken from a vein in your arm. The test can be used to evaluate kidney function as well as your blood sugar, acid-base balance, and fluid and electrolyte levels.

About the Test

Purpose of the test

The basic metabolic panel typically involves eight separate measurements and can provide relevant information in many situations. Depending on the context, the BMP can be used for medical screening, diagnosis, or monitoring treatment.

  • Screening is a method of trying to find health problems before they have caused symptoms to occur. A doctor may prescribe the BMP as a screening test during regular check-ups to try to detect possible underlying health concerns.
  • Diagnosis is the process of finding the cause after signs or symptoms of a health problem have become apparent. The BMP offers details about various aspects of how well the body is functioning, which makes it useful in the diagnostic process for a wide range of symptoms and medical conditions.
  • Monitoring involves follow-up testing that checks to see how your condition changes over time or in response to treatment.

What does the test measure?

Usually, eight distinct measurements are included in the basic metabolic panel:

  • Glucose is a kind of sugar that serves as energy for the body and brain. Another name for this is blood sugar. High glucose levels can be an indicator of metabolic problems like diabetes.
  • Calcium is a mineral that is essential for healthy bones and muscles. It is also critical to the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Therefore, the body carefully regulates your blood calcium levels. Most calcium comes from the foods and drinks you consume. It is then absorbed by your intestine and stored in your bones.
  • Sodium is one of several electrolytes in the body. Electrolytes are minerals that play an integral role in maintaining proper fluid levels, muscle and nerve function, and acid-base balance. The kidneys help control sodium levels, and most sodium intake comes from your diet.
  • Potassium is an electrolyte that is obtained through your diet. It is present throughout the body and is fundamental to various bodily processes.
  • Bicarbonate is an electrolyte that helps to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the blood. Testing for bicarbonate helps to identify or monitor an electrolyte imbalance or acid-base (pH) imbalance.
  • Chloride is an electrolyte that works with potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate to facilitate the proper water, electrolyte, and acid-base status in the body.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is a measurement of how much urea nitrogen, a protein breakdown product, is present in the blood and is tested to assess the health of your kidneys.
  • Creatinine is a waste material generated by normal muscle activity and is tested to assess the health of your kidneys.

When should I get a basic metabolic panel?

There are many circumstances in which a basic metabolic panel may be ordered. It can be used for diagnosis when the doctor suspects you may have a problem affecting your kidneys, electrolyte balance, or acid-base balance. Since it involves eight different measurements, the basic metabolic panel can be helpful when you have general symptoms like fatigue, confusion, prolonged vomiting, or breathing problems. A BMP may be ordered to look for abnormalities in your blood if you are admitted to an emergency room.

Some doctors conduct a BMP during your routine check-ups, but this is not a standard use of the test. There are no guidelines recommending the BMP for screening because, to date, no medical studies have shown that the benefits of using the BMP in this way are greater than potential downsides such as causing unnecessary procedures and costs.

A BMP can be used for monitoring if you have had a previous test that was abnormal and your doctor wants to see if your levels have changed over time. A BMP can also be used to check whether and by how much your levels have changed after treatment for various health problems.

Finding a Basic Metabolic Panel Test

How to get tested

The basic metabolic panel is typically performed after it has been ordered by a health care professional. The test is done on a blood sample that is obtained by drawing a vial of blood from a vein in your arm.

Can I take the test at home?

Few or no options exist for taking the full eight-measurement basic metabolic panel at home. The blood sample for the BMP is nearly always taken in a medical setting, and that sample is analyzed in a laboratory. Some individual measurements that are part of the BMP may be available with tests that can be conducted at home or that allow for collection of a blood sample at home.

How much does the test cost?

Several factors, including where you take the test, where your sample is analyzed, and whether you have health insurance, can influence the cost of a basic metabolic panel. As a result, there is not a standard price for the BMP.

Specific elements of the cost of the BMP include the fees for the blood draw, for laboratory analysis, and for an office visit. If you have medical insurance, these costs may be paid for at least in part by your insurance if your doctor prescribes the test and you have the test done at a location within your provider network.

If you need to know the specific costs, including deductibles or copays, contact your doctor’s office and your health insurance company.

Taking a Basic Metabolic Panel Test

The basic metabolic panel is a test performed on a single blood sample. That sample is normally taken at a doctor’s office, hospital, or lab, and the blood is drawn from a vein in your arm.

Before the test

You will usually be told to fast for at least eight hours or overnight before you have your blood taken for the basic metabolic panel. Fasting for this test means not eating and not drinking any liquids other than water.

You normally do not need to stop taking any medications before the test, but you should review your current medications and supplements with your doctor ahead of time.

Make sure to follow any specific instructions given by your doctor’s office for fasting or otherwise preparing for the blood draw for the basic metabolic panel.

During the test

Getting a blood sample for the BMP is a routine procedure. While you are seated, an elastic band will be tied around your upper arm to enhance blood flow in your arm. A technician will use an antiseptic wipe to clean part of your arm and will then insert a needle into a vein to withdraw a vial of blood.

Once enough blood has been drawn, the needle will be removed, and the collection is over. The whole process normally lasts less than a few minutes. A temporary slight stinging pain may be felt when the needle is inserted and taken out of your vein.

After the test

To prevent any continued bleeding, the technician often puts a bandage over the puncture site, and you may need to apply pressure for a few minutes to reduce bruising. Still, there is a chance of bruising or mild pain in your arm after the blood draw, but side effects are normally short-lived.

Because you may have to fast, you may find it helpful to bring something to eat once it is over. You can generally return to your typical activities like driving and working after your blood sample has been taken.

Basic Metabolic Panel Test Results

Receiving test results

Even though it involves eight different tests, the results of the basic metabolic panel are normally available within a few business days after the lab gets your blood sample. You may be contacted directly by your doctor’s office with your results, or a test report may be sent to you by mail or made accessible through an online health portal.

Interpreting test results

On your test report, you will usually see a line item for each measurement included in the basic metabolic panel. That line item will show both your levels as well as the reference range for each test result.

It is essential to look closely at the reference range listed on your test report because this range can change for some tests based on the laboratory that analyzed your blood sample. Different methods can be used for some of the measurements, so there is no universal reference range for the basic metabolic panel.

To demonstrate how variation can exist in reference ranges, the table below lists the common ranges mentioned in the National Library of Medicine’s A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia and by the American Board of Internal Medicine:

Measurement National Library of Medicine A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia Reference Range American Board of Internal Medicine Reference Range
Glucose 70 to 100 mg/dL 70 to 99 mg/dL
Calcium 8.5 to 10.2 mg/dL 8.6 to 10.2 mg/dL
Sodium 135 to 145 mmol/L or mEq/L 136 to 145 mmol/L or mEq/L
Potassium 3.7 to 5.2 mmol/L or mEq/L 3.5 to 5.0 mmol/L or mEq/L
Bicarbonate 23 to 29 mmol/L or mEq/L 23 to 28 mmol/L or mEq/L
Chloride 96 to 106 mmol/L or mEq/L 98 to 106mmol/L or mEq/L
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) 6 to 20 mg/dL 8 to 20 mg/dL
Creatinine 0.6 to 1.3 mg/dL Female: 0.5 to 1.10 mg/dL; Male: 0.7 to 1.30 mg/dL

 

Interpretation of your test result goes beyond just noting whether your levels were normal or abnormal. For abnormal results, your doctor will look at how far they fall outside of the reference range. They will consider your current health and health history and may look for patterns in which levels are abnormal to try to identify the most likely cause or to determine whether follow-up testing is needed.

For all these reasons, it is important to discuss your BMP test results with your doctor so that you can best understand what they mean in your situation.

Do I need follow-up tests?

If you have an abnormal result on a basic metabolic panel test, you may need follow-up testing. The type of follow-up will depend on your specific test results and health situation. In some cases, a repeat BMP can monitor whether your levels normalize over time. In other cases, other lab tests or imaging tests could be appropriate to help diagnose the cause of an abnormal result.

Questions for your doctor about test results

Talking with your physician is the best way to understand the significance of the results of your basic metabolic panel test. Some questions that may help as you review your test report with your doctor include:

  • Were there any abnormal results on my basic metabolic panel? If so, which level(s) were abnormal and how abnormal were they?
  • What is the most likely cause of any abnormal results?
  • Do you recommend any follow-up tests? If so, what are the pros and cons of those tests?
  • Should I have another basic metabolic panel test in the future?

Related Tests

Because the basic metabolic panel is made up of several individual tests, it has notable overlap with several other panels. The following sections provide information about tests related to the BMP.

How is the basic metabolic panel different from the comprehensive metabolic panel?

The comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) includes all eight of the measurements in the basic metabolic panel and adds six more. In this way, the CMP is a broader panel, and its additional measurements are key components of the liver panel, a test to evaluate the function of the liver.

The following table provides a comparison of the usual components of the basic and comprehensive metabolic panels:

Measurement Basic Metabolic Panel Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
Glucose

Calcium

Sodium

Potassium

Bicarbonate

Chloride

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)

Creatinine

Albumin

Total Protein

Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP)

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)

Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)

Bilirubin

View Sources

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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Basic metabolic panel. Updated April 29, 2019. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003462.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. BUN – blood test. Updated April 29, 2019. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003474.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Chloride test – blood. Updated April 29, 2019. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003485.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. CO2 blood test. Updated April 29, 2019. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003469.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Potassium test. Updated April 29, 2019. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003484.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Creatinine blood test. Updated July 4, 2019. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003475.htm

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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Blood sugar test. Updated January 26, 2020. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003482.htm

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