What Does My Blood Test Mean? A Look at a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

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They say your eyes are a window to your soul — but did you know that your blood is a window to your health?

There are plenty of ways your physician can look inside your body, from X-rays to MRIs to ultrasounds. These are all important tests that save lives every day. However, there's another simple way to take a look at what's happening inside your body: a blood test.

Your blood is a special fluid, and it has many important roles. From bringing oxygen and nutrients to your organs to carrying around important cells that fight infections, your blood is essential to your livelihood. About 7 to 8% of your body weight is blood, and by taking a small sample of it, your physician can find out a lot about your health.

There are many types of blood tests, which check for various diseases and conditions. One group of tests, called a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), provides a detailed picture of the chemicals inside your body and your metabolism (processes in your body that use energy). This is different from a complete blood count (CBC), which measures parts of your blood such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

A comprehensive metabolic panel can show how well your kidneys and liver are working, and it can test your levels of chemicals such as blood sugar, calcium, sodium, and protein.

What_diseases_can_a_comprehensive_metabolic_panel_reveal?

Your physician may order a comprehensive metabolic panel to check for diabetes, liver or kidney disease, or other health conditions. With just a small sample of your blood, your physician can gather a lot of information about your well-being.

 

What Happens During a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel Blood Test?

A comprehensive metabolic panel blood test doesn't require any fancy medical equipment during the procedure, and it takes less than 10 minutes.

In order to get accurate results, you won’t be able to eat or drink anything for 8 hours before your test. It may be helpful to schedule your appointment in the morning to make this easier.

During the blood test, a technician will insert a needle into a vein in your arm or back of your hand to draw samples of blood. The procedure is quick and easy, though you may experience a little discomfort for a short period of time. You may feel a little pain, a small prick, or stinging, and some people experience some throbbing or a small bruise afterward, which will go away quickly.

Your physician's office will send the blood to a lab, where more tests will be done to provide a chemical breakdown of your blood.

Breaking Down the Results from Your Blood Test

The results of your comprehensive metabolic panel may just look like a bunch of numbers, but these important numbers reveal a lot about what's going on inside your body. Each shows how much of a certain chemical is inside your blood, which can indicate illnesses or conditions that you might not otherwise know about.

The range of what's normal varies slightly and depends on laboratory, method, and instrument — so it's important to check the range that's displayed along with your results. However, there is a normal range that can be expected for healthy individuals:


Chemical

What is it?

What's a normal range?

What are some conditions that an abnormal range might signify?

Albumin

A protein that moves molecules, such as calcium and medicine, through your blood and keeps blood from leaking into the tissue

3.4 to 5.4 g/dL (grams per decilitre)

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • An inability to absorb nutrients effectively, such as with Crohn's disease

Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP)

A protein in all body tissues, with higher concentrations in your liver, bile ducts, and bone

20 to 130 U/L (units per litre)

  • Liver disease
  • Bone disease
  • Ineffective medical treatments for either

Alanine Transaminase (ALT)

An enzyme (a protein that causes chemical changes in your body) that's in higher concentrations in your liver

4 to 36 U/L

  • Liver disease
  • Mononucleosis
  • Pancreatitis

Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)

An enzyme that's in higher concentrations in your liver, heart, and muscles

8 to 33 U/L

  • Liver disease
  • Previous surgeries

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)

The result of protein being broken down in your blood by your kidneys

6 to 20 mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre)

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Malnutrition

Calcium

A mineral that helps all of the cells in your body work properly, which is also important for strong bones and teeth and heart function

8.5 to 10.2 mg/dL

  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Thyroid problems
  • Parathyroid disease
  • Paget's disease

Chloride

An electrolyte that helps maintain your body fluids

96 to 106 mEg/L (milliequivalents per liter)

  • Diseases that cause acid buildup in your blood
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Addison disease

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

A chemical that is a result of your metabolism (processes that break down energy)

23 to 29 mEg/L

  • Kidney disease
  • Diseases that cause acid buildup in your blood
  • Addison disease

Creatinine

A chemical that is a waste product of creatine, which supplies energy to your muscles

0.6 to 1.3 mg/dL (this range can vary with age)

  • Kidney problems
  • Muscle problems
  • Malnutrition
  • Problems during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia

Glucose

A major source of energy for the cells in your body, such as your brain cells

70 to 100 mg/dL

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease

Potassium

A mineral that helps your nerves communicate with your muscles and moves nutrients and waste products to and from the cells in your body

3.7 to 5.2 mEg/L

  • Kidney disease
  • Diseases that cause acid buildup in your blood, such as diabetes
  • Certain medications

Sodium

A substance that helps maintain the amount of water in your body

135 to 145 mEg/L

  • Fluid loss (such as from diarrhea or water pills)
  • Adrenal gland problems
  • Certain medications

Total Bilirubin

Old red blood cells that have been replaced by new ones, which are removed from the body in the stool

0.1 to 1.2 mg/dL

  • Blood cell disorder
  • Liver problems
  • Gallstones
  • Cancer in the pancreas or gallbladder
Total Protein

Part of your cells that keep important fluid in your blood vessels and help your immune system

6.0 to 8.3 g/dL

  • Infections such as HIV or hepatitis B or C
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition

Keep in mind — just because your comprehensive metabolic panel shows that one of the chemicals in your blood isn't within the normal range doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong. Be sure to go over your results with your physician so they can explain what they mean and if you might need further testing.

Comprehensive Metabolic Panels: Simple and Life-Saving

There are plenty of advanced and effective ways to test for illness and disease. The benefit of a blood test, however, is that it's quick and simple — and there are very few risks.

More importantly, the detailed breakdown that a comprehensive metabolic panel can provide helps your physician determine if the chemicals in your body are working as they should. This simple test allows them to see if your organs, from your kidneys to your liver to your heart, are doing what they need to in order to keep you healthy.

The 10 minutes you spend at your physician's office for your blood test — and the informative snapshot of your body that it provides — may end up saving your life.

Do you have questions about comprehensive metabolic panels? Contact your primary care physician to discuss how a comprehensive metabolic panel can tell you more about your health.

Chester County Hospital offers outpatient laboratory services throughout Chester County. Find a location near you.



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Chester County Hospital's Health e-Living Blog offers a regular serving of useful health and lifestyle information for the residents of Chester County, PA and the surrounding region.

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