What is the basic metabolic panel blood test?

The basic metabolic panel gives an idea about your electrolytes (body salt and potassium), blood glucose (sugar) level and kidney function.

The metabolic panel blood test tells us about the patient's electrolyte status. It tells us their sodium, potassium and chloride counts. It also tells us how their kidneys are functioning. We can do this test during a regular primary care visit.

Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist

The basic metabolic panel (BMP) checks the electrolyte and mineral levels in the blood that are so important for keeping your muscles, heart and other organs working properly. Included here is your level of:

  • Sodium (NA) -- which is important for regulating the fluid balance in your body and transmitting electrical signals in the brain and muscles. When you’re dehydrated, your level could be high or low. Signs of a sodium imbalance are confusion, weakness and lethargy. IV medication is necessary to correct the imbalance.
  • Chloride (Cl) -- also helps to regulate fluids in your body. When a chemical like chloride is lacking, the blood becomes more acidic and reactions don’t occur efficiently and your body doesn’t function properly.
  • Potassium (K) -- is necessary for proper functioning of the heart and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction. If your level is too high or too low, you’re at increased risk of an abnormal heart beat. Muscle weakness is often related to a low potassium level. A low potassium level is often the result of diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition and malabsorption syndromes, such as Crohn's disease. In addition, many blood pressure medications that cause you to lose water also cause you to lose potassium when you urinate. Kidney problems can cause high levels. If your potassium level is low, you’ll be given potassium supplements either by mouth or IV.
  • Bicarbonate (HCO3) -- tells about the carbon dioxide (CO2) in your body that is influenced by your lungs and kidney functioning. Abnormal levels may suggest that you are losing or retaining fluid, which causes an imbalance in your body's electrolytes.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) -- tells us how your kidneys are functioning. When this level is high, it tells us the waste products, made when your body breaks down protein, aren’t being excreted properly. Dehydration and bleeding can raise BUN levels.
  • Creatinine (Cr) -- is another indicator of how well your kidneys are working. When this number is high, we know the kidneys aren’t filtering and getting rid of creatinine properly. Muscle damage and dehydration are often related to an elevated creatinine level.
  • Glucose (Glu) -- is a type of sugar in your blood. The level fluctuates, depending on what you eat and when and how much energy you’re using. When levels are too high, we look for health problems, like diabetes.
Doc's ER Survival Guide (DocHandal's Guides)

More About this Book

Doc's ER Survival Guide (DocHandal's Guides)

Few people get through life without at least one trip to the emergency room (ER), either as a patient or support person for a family member or friend. Doc’s ER Survival Guide is designed to help...

Continue Learning about Lab Tests

What questions should I ask my doctor about cholesterol tests?
The following questions can help you talk to your physician about having a cholesterol/lipids te...
More Answers
What is a viral culture?
A viral culture is a laboratory test in which a sample of cells is taken from a part of the body, a ...
More Answers
What does my total protein level tell me?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
These levels are used in the evaluation of nutritional status, liver synthetic functions, kidney syn...
More Answers
Why do I have to fast before a cholesterol blood test?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
In order to accurately and consistently measure a cholesterol panel, fasting is required before a bl...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.