What is a Basic Metabolic Panel?

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  • Written By: Lucinda Reynolds
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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A basic metabolic panel is a blood test that measures the levels of sugar and electrolytes in the body. It also measures how well the kidneys are functioning. This medical test is one of the most common blood tests ordered by doctors to help diagnose and treat many health conditions.

The basic metabolic panel consists of eight tests. A glucose level is part of this blood work. Glucose is a specific type of sugar the body uses for energy. If the level is too high it could indicate diabetes, or it could be a reaction to medication.

Another important component of the basic metabolic panel is the sodium level. Sodium is both an electrolyte and a mineral. If the sodium level in the blood is too high it puts the patient at risk for a heart attack or stroke. High sodium levels also cause the body to retain fluid, which will cause swelling of the extremities. A low sodium level can cause confusion and muscle weakness.

Potassium is another important piece of this panel. Potassium regulates the amount of fluid that goes in and out of the body's cells. A potassium level that is too high or too low can have serious consequences. Abnormal levels can cause weakness, confusion, paralysis and changes in the heart rhythm. Potassium levels can be influenced by medications, illness, and other electrolytes in the body.


In addition to the electrolyte levels in the blood, a basic metabolic panel will also check the kidney function. It does this by testing the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and the creatinine levels in the blood. Both of these tests will let the doctor know important information about how well the kidneys are working or if certain medications are doing damage to kidney function.

Urea is a byproduct of protein that is made in the liver and passed out through the urine. If the kidneys are unable to remove the urea from the body, the blood urea nitrogen level will be high. Creatinine is a waste product that is filtered through the kidneys. If the kidneys are damaged the creatinine levels in the blood will be high. The BUN and creatinine levels will also be high if an individual is dehydrated.

Any abnormalities in a basic metabolic panel should be addressed by a doctor. If an individual has been ill, the electrolytes levels can be abnormal. In most cases, these levels will stabilize once the individual becomes well. On occasion the doctor may have to change medications to correct the abnormalities.


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Post 2

A basic metabolic panel is typically used by doctors to learn more information about your general health, and does not necessarily mean that there's anything to be concerned about. Your doctor will review the results of the blood work with you at your appointment, and will let you know if there's anything to be concerned about.

Post 1

My doctor recently ordered a basic metabolic panel as part of my yearly physical. Does this mean that there's something seriously wrong with me? What health issues should I be concerned about? I go to get my results later this week, and am very concerned.

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