Test Quick Guide

The basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a panel of tests 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 BMP 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: A doctor may prescribe the BMP as a basic health screening test during regular checkups to detect possible underlying health concerns before symptoms have occurred.
  • Diagnosis: 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: You might receive 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 BMP:

  • Glucose: (also known as blood sugar) is a kind of sugar that serves as energy for the body and brain. 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, so 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 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 tested to assess the health of your kidneys.

When should I get a BMP?

There are many circumstances in which a BMP 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 BMP 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 as a basic health panel test during your routine checkups, but this is not a standard use of the test. There are no guidelines recommending the BMP for screening because no medical studies to date have shown 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 abnormal test and your doctor wants to see if your levels have changed over time. A BMP can also be used to check whether your levels have changed (and by how much) after treatment for various health problems.

Finding a BMP

How can I get a BMP test?

The BMP is typically performed after it has been ordered by a health care professional. It can be done in a hospital, medical office, or laboratory. The test is done on a blood sample 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 BMP at home. The blood sample for the BMP is nearly always taken in a medical setting, and that sample is analyzed in a laboratory. You can order a BMP online and take your form to a lab for sample collection. Some individual measurements that are part of the BMP may be available with tests conducted at home or that allow for the 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 BMP.

Specific elements of the cost of the BMP include the fees for the blood draw, laboratory analysis, and 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 test 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 BMP

The BMP is a test performed with 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 BMP. 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 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 BMP.

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 typical activities such as 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 BMP 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 BMP. That line item will show both your levels, units of measure 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 BMP.

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:

Interpretation of your test result goes beyond just noting whether your levels were normal or abnormal. For abnormal results, your health care provider 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 to try to identify the most likely cause or to determine whether follow-up testing is needed.

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.

You may want to ask your doctor some follow-up questions, such as:

  • Were there any abnormal results on my BMP? If so, which level(s), 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 BMP test in the future?

How is the BMP different from the comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP)?

Both the CMP and the BMP are blood tests, but, as the names indicate, the CMP involves more measurements. The CMP includes 14 components, and the BMP typically has eight. The following table illustrates the parts of the typical BMP and CMP:

All of the measurements in the BMP are also in the CMP. However, the CMP adds the tests found in a typical liver panel test.



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