A comprehensive metabolic panel is a set of tests that a doctor may order to find out more about a person’s overall health.

These tests help evaluate how well the body is working. A comprehensive metabolic panel includes 14 different tests that assess the function of your liver and kidneys, as well as your blood sugar levels.

The results of the tests can help a doctor identify any concerns or irregularities in the body’s metabolism and recommend treatment.

This article discusses the individual tests included in the comprehensive metabolic panel and what their results could mean.

A person holding a cotton pad over the injection site after a metabolic panel test.Share on Pinterest
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A comprehensive metabolic panel is a series of 14 blood tests that provide information about a person’s current metabolism, the National Library of Medicine explains.

This set of tests helps doctors understand how well a person’s liver and kidneys function and how their body uses sugars, proteins, and lipids. It also provides information about a person’s overall health.

Because a comprehensive metabolic panel includes various tests, it can give doctors a broad overview of the body’s overall health.

A doctor may order the test for several reasons, including diagnosing and monitoring conditions such as diabetes and kidney or liver disease.

A comprehensive metabolic panel includes 14 tests that measure:

  • Glucose: This is a sugar and the body’s primary energy source.
  • Calcium: This is a critical mineral that plays a role in blood clotting, heart rhythms, and nerve and muscle function.
  • Electrolytes: The test checks for sodium, potassium, carbon dioxide, and chloride levels. These electrically charged minerals help the body control fluid levels and acid-alkaline balance.
  • Albumin: The liver makes albumin, a protein that helps the body transport hormones and nutrients through the bloodstream.
  • Bilirubin: The liver produces the pigment bilirubin when it breaks down red blood cells.
  • Total protein: The test measures all the proteins in the blood, including albumin and globulin.
  • Liver enzymes: This test covers alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine transaminase (ALT), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST).
  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine: These are waste products. The kidneys remove BUN and creatinine from the blood.

A doctor may order a comprehensive metabolic panel to:

  • Diagnose: The test can offer clues about health conditions that affect metabolism, electrolyte balance, and blood sugar, such as diabetes, or those that affect liver and kidney health.
  • Monitor: If a person has a condition affecting their metabolism, the test can help doctors track disease progression and evaluate the person’s health. It can also help doctors figure out whether treatments are working and check for medication side effects, particularly if prescribed medications have the potential to affect the liver or kidneys.
  • Screen: The test can help doctors identify health concerns before they cause symptoms. A doctor may order a comprehensive metabolic panel as part of a routine health checkup to look for any underlying issues.

A doctor may request a person to fast for at least 8 hours before the test to ensure accurate results.

This means a person cannot eat or drink anything other than water during this time.

A comprehensive metabolic panel is a simple blood test. A healthcare professional usually carries out the test in a hospital or clinic.

First, they take a small blood sample from a vein in the person’s arm using a needle and syringe. The risks of the test are very low, although a person may experience slight pain or stinging and bruising at the spot where the needle entered the skin. These symptoms go away quickly.

Next, the sample goes to a laboratory for analysis. The results may take several days to come back.

The doctor will then review these results with the person. They will discuss the meaning of the results and will recommend next steps.

A person’s comprehensive metabolic panel results include upper and lower limit reference ranges. These are the values that doctors expect to see in a healthy person.

The reference ranges differ by laboratory, so discussing the results with a doctor is important. They can explain what the numbers mean in relation to a person’s health.

The typical ranges for each component of the comprehensive metabolic panel are as follows:

  • Glucose: less than 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • Calcium: 8.8 to 10.7 mg/dL
  • Sodium: 135 to 145 milimoles per liter (mmol/L)
  • Potassium: 3.6 to 5.5 mmol/L
  • Albumin: 3.5 to 5.0 grams per deciliter (g/dL)
  • Bilirubin: 0.1 to 1.0 miligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • Total protein: 6–7.8 g/dL
  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT): 8 to 20 units per liter (U/L)
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): 8 to 20 U/L
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): 35 to 100 U/L
  • BUN: 8–20 mg/dL
  • Creatinine: 0.5–1.2 mg/dL

Remember that many factors can affect these test results, including:

  • certain foods and drinks
  • medications
  • stress
  • strenuous exercise
  • illnesses

If the comprehensive metabolic panel results are outside the reference range, they may indicate an underlying health condition.

A doctor may order further tests to confirm the diagnosis. For example, a person may need additional liver function tests if the ALP level is high.

If the results are within the reference range, it usually means a person’s metabolism is working as it should. However, a doctor may order additional tests to check for other health conditions if the person has symptoms.

A person may want to ask their doctor the following questions:

  • What do my results mean?
  • Are there any conditions that could have caused my results to be abnormal?
  • Do I need to have any further tests?
  • What are the treatment options for any underlying conditions?
  • When should I have this test again?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to improve my results?

A comprehensive metabolic panel is a simple blood test that measures different substances in the blood. It can help doctors identify health problems, check how well treatments are working, and look for medication side effects.

Preparation for the test involves fasting for at least 8 hours beforehand. The test is usually quick and has few risks. Results typically take a few days to come back, and a doctor will discuss them with the person afterward.

Reference ranges differ from laboratory to laboratory but give doctors an idea of what results are average for healthy people.

If a person’s results are outside the reference range, they may indicate an underlying health condition. A doctor may then order further tests to confirm the diagnosis.