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By Jarrod Beachum, PA-C

Last week we discussed the Complete Blood Count or CBC. This week I wanted to go over another common lab we order called the Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP).

With the CBC, we were looking at the different blood cells to see if there were any abnormalities that would suggest a change from a healthy state to a disease state. With the BMP we are still looking at the blood, but now we are measuring the level of 8 other substances which may give us clues about the body’s metabolism. In general, the BMP tells us about kidney function, the balance of electrolytes and fluids, and glucose levels.

Two indicators of kidney function include blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine levels. BUN is the amount of waste product filtered by the kidneys, so if the kidney function decreases, the BUN may increase. Creatinine is the waste product produced in the muscles that are filtered out in the kidneys.

Electrolytes are minerals in the body that help cells function and move nutrients and water around. The BMP tests for sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, and chloride. Sodium is vital to many functions in the body, including nerve and muscle function. Potassium is important for cell metabolism and muscle function. Bicarbonate is needed to help maintain the body’s acid-base balance (pH). Chloride also helps to maintain the pH but also regulates the amount of fluid in the body.

Calcium is another very important mineral that is crucial to bone health, muscle/nerve/heart function, and blood clotting.

Glucose is the primary energy source for the cells and a relatively low baseline must be maintained for normal function. Increased levels can eventually cause damage to the neurovascular system and lead to end-organ damage, such as that seen in diabetes.

Since the tested substances are involved in so many different body processes, it is easy to see that there is a large variety of conditions that can cause abnormal levels. Some conditions are emergencies, and some are relatively benign. Putting the lab information in context with the patient exam is vital to the proper interpretation of the results. Lab values that are slightly out of range are generally not concerning and can be caused by innocent things such as time of day, collection technique, biological variability.

The BMP does have a big brother called the CMP or Complete Metabolic Panel. In addition to the 8 items above, it has two protein tests (albumin and total protein) and 4 liver tests (alkaline phosphatase, alanine transaminase, aspartate transaminase, and bilirubin). As the name implies, these additional 6 tests give a more complete look at the body via the blood.

If you have any questions about the BMP or CMP, feel free to stop by 45 Urgent Care and we will be happy to discuss it with you.
-Jarrod Beachum, PA-C