All about Comprehensive Metabolic Panel Blood Tests
A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) is a combination of blood tests designed to aid in assessing a person's overall health. The CMP is a valuable tool in preventive medicine. It is typically ordered by physicians to screen for health issues during annual physical exams. It is also commonly used to help diagnose a variety of diseases and health conditions, monitor chronic health problems and track the effects of medical treatments. Here we'll get into the details about this metabolic panel, including the specific health aspects it evaluates and what to make of your CMP test results.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel: What It Tests
This comprehensive panel of blood tests provides information about a number of the body's organs, systems and functions, including:
- Liver health and function
- Kidney health and function
- Pulmonary (lung) health and function
- Electrolyte balance
- Fluid balance
Includes a complete blood count (CBC), comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), urinalysis, hemoglobin A1c, and lipid panel
Measures levels of 8 individual components to assess overall health
Measures levels of 14 individual components to assess overall health
What the CMP Can Tell You about Your Health
To check these organs, systems and functions of the body, the CMP measures levels of 14 substances in the blood. Here is a list of those substances and what their levels can tell you and your healthcare provider about your health:
- Glucose – A fasting blood glucose (sugar) level, taken after 9 to 12 hours without solid food, can detect problems with the way your body is metabolizing sugar. High levels of blood glucose can indicate diabetes. Less commonly, other problems may be at the root of higher than normal glucose levels. These include hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid gland) and some types of pancreatic cancers. Low glucose levels can be a sign of under-active pituitary or thyroid glands, among other conditions.
- Calcium – Calcium is an electrolyte, which means that it aids in balancing fluids in your body and is essential to the healthy function of muscles, including the heart, and nerves, among other important functions. Abnormal levels of calcium in the blood can indicate problems that include kidney or liver failure, problems with the parathyroid gland, vitamin D deficiency and/or problems with the pancreas.
- Sodium – Sodium is also an electrolyte, making proper levels in the body important to overall health. Abnormal levels of sodium in the blood can be caused by dehydration, vomiting, hormonal abnormalities, or failure of the heart, liver or kidneys, among other conditions.
- Potassium – Another electrolyte, potassium is essential for muscle function. Abnormal levels in the body can cause problems with heart function, including irregular heartbeat.
- Chloride – Abnormal levels of this electrolyte can indicate poor dehydration, poor kidney function, hormonal disorders or congestive heart failure.
- Carbon Dioxide – This blood test measures the amount of bicarbonate, a form of carbon dioxide, in your blood. This substance is a waste product produced by body metabolism. The kidneys and lungs both play a role in regulating levels of it in the body. Abnormal levels of carbon dioxide in the blood can indicate kidney disease, metabolic disorders, lung/breathing problems, hormone disorders or exposure to certain toxins (poisons).
- BUN (blood urea nitrogen) – This primary use for this test is to evaluate kidney function. High BUN levels may indicate kidney disease, kidney failure or, less commonly, congestive heart failure. High levels can also be caused by steroid use or bleeding. Low levels may indicate liver problems or protein deficiency.
- Creatinine – This substance is a waste product of muscle function. Since kidneys filter creatinine out of the blood, high levels in the blood indicate poor kidney function. Other potential causes of abnormal creatinine levels include muscle diseases or disorders and preeclampsia.
- Total Protein – This test measures the total level of the two primary types of proteins in your blood, globulin and albumin. Abnormal levels of total protein can indicate poor liver or kidney function, poor absorption of protein due to digestive disorders and infection or inflammation in the body.
- Albumin – This test calculates the albumin/globulin ratio in the blood, or A/G ratio. When albumin levels are higher or lower than normal in relation to globulin levels, this can indicate health problems that include kidney or liver disease, leukemia and autoimmune disease, among others.
- ALP (alkaline phosphatase) – This is a liver enzyme that helps in the metabolism of phosphates. Higher than normal levels of ALP in the blood can indicate liver injury or disease, and in some cases, bone disorders.
- ALT (alanine amino transferase) – Also a liver enzyme, ALT is released into the blood when the liver is damaged. Higher than normal levels of ALT in the blood can indicate liver damage or liver disease.
- AST (aspartate amino transferase) – This is another live enzyme, and high levels of AST in the blood can also indicate the presence of liver damage or disease.
- Bilirubin – This is a waste product of the breakdown of hemoglobin in the body. The liver processes biliruben to allow it to be eliminated from the body. High levels of this waste product are an indication of poor liver function.
It is important to note that the comprehensive metabolic panel is a broad screening tool. That means that, while it can provide indications of health issues, it cannot provide a definitive, medically valid diagnosis of any disease or condition on its own. For this reason, any abnormal results on a CMP test will generally require follow-up with additional tests that are more specific to the health issues that may be indicated by CMP results.