A doctor's gloved hand holding a tube of blood with a glowing metabolic panel over top.

Reading a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) is a blood test that doctors use to diagnose or monitor various health problems. It can also be used to assess your overall health.1

Doctors use the results of a CMP to identify or monitor the following:1

  • Kidney problems
  • Liver problems
  • High blood sugar (that may indicate diabetes)
  • Fluid and electrolyte imbalance
  • Response to medicines that may affect liver and kidney function
  • Other health conditions

This test may also be called a chem 14, chemistry panel, or metabolic panel. Your doctor may instruct you not to eat or drink for 10 to 12 hours before your test.2

What tests are included in a comprehensive metabolic panel?

A CMP measures 14 different levels in your blood:1-4

  • Albumin – This is a type of protein made by the liver. A low albumin level may indicate liver or kidney disease or poor nutrition. Dehydration may cause the level to be high.
  • ALP (alkaline phosphatase) – This is a liver enzyme. A high ALP may indicate liver, kidney, or bone disease.
  • ALT (alanine aminotransferase) – This is a liver enzyme. A high ALT may indicate a liver problem.
  • AST (aspartate aminotransferase) – AST is found throughout the body. It is considered a liver enzyme. A high AST may indicate a liver problem.
  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen) – This is a waste product removed from the body by the kidneys. A high BUN can indicate a kidney problem.
  • Serum calcium – Calcium is one of the most important minerals in your body. It is necessary for the normal function of your bones, heart, nerves, and muscles. A level that is too high or too low can indicate a variety of health problems.
  • Chloride – This electrolyte works with sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate to control many body functions. Abnormal levels can indicate a variety of health conditions, including liver or kidney disease and heart failure.
  • CO2 (carbon dioxide)/Bicarbonate – This measures the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood. Carbon dioxide is a waste product produced when your body uses food for energy. Abnormal results can indicate many health problems, including liver and kidney disease.
  • Creatinine – This is a waste product of normal muscle function. A high creatinine may indicate a kidney problem.
  • Glucose (blood sugar) – Blood sugar is needed for energy. High blood sugar may indicate diabetes.
  • Potassium – This is an electrolyte needed for many body functions. Abnormal levels may indicate kidney disease and other health problems.
  • Sodium – This is an electrolyte needed for normal body function. Your kidneys control the amount of sodium in your blood. An abnormal level can indicate a kidney problem or dehydration.
  • Total bilirubin – Bilirubin is a waste product produced from the normal breakdown of red blood cells. High bilirubin levels may be a sign of a liver problem.
  • Total protein – This measures the total amount of various proteins in the blood. Protein is needed for blood vessel and immune function. An abnormal result may indicate liver or kidney disease, nutritional deficiency, or other health problems.

What do the results mean?

The results of a CMP are reported as a series of numbers. Each individual test in the CMP has a reference range (also called normal values). A result above or below the normal values is considered an abnormal level. But it does not necessarily mean you have a health problem. Talk to your doctor about your results.5

Normal values vary based on age and sex. Different laboratories also have slightly different ranges. According to Mayo Clinic Laboratories, normal adult values for each CMP test are:4,5

  • Albumin – 3.5 to 5.0 g/dL
  • ALP – 35 to 129 U/L
  • ALT – 7 to 55 U/L
  • AST – 8 to 48 U/L
  • BUN – 6 to 24 mg/dL
  • Serum calcium – 8.6 to 10.2 mg/dL
  • Chloride – 98 to 107 mEq/L
  • CO2/Bicarbonate – 22 to 29 mEq/L
  • Creatinine – 0.59 to 1.35 mg/dL
  • Glucose – 70 to 100 mg/dL (101 to 126 mg/dL is considered impaired glucose)
  • Potassium – 3.6 to 5.2 mEq/L
  • Sodium – 135 to 145 mEq/L
  • Total bilirubin – 0.1 to 1.2 mg/dL
  • Total protein – 6.3 to 7.9 g/dL

What if my results are abnormal?

If you have abnormal test results, your doctor may recommend additional testing. Abnormal results can indicate kidney or liver disease, diabetes, or other health problems. But do not assume anything before talking with your doctor.1,2

Questions you can ask your doctor to clarify your results include:

  • Were any of my lab tests abnormal? If so, which ones?
  • What do my results mean?
  • Do you recommend any other tests?
  • When should I have this test repeated?

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.