A chem 6 panel is a blood test that is commonly ordered to check the functions of certain organs or confirm a diagnosis by evaluating your body’s metabolism. Unlike a basic metabolic panel, however, also called a “chem 8,” a chem 6 panel does not include tests for certain compounds like glucose, commonly associated with metabolic syndrome.
If your doctor orders a chem 6 panel rather than a BMP, they are likely checking specific levels in your body to track a condition or monitor the progress of your treatment. Full metabolic panels are used more generally as routine blood tests in annual checkups or new patient workups.
Continue reading to learn more about chem 6 panels, why your doctor might order them, and how they differ from other commonly prescribed blood tests. And book an appointment today to complete routine blood work from home.
Chem 6 Panel vs Basic Metabolic Panel
A basic metabolic panel (BMP) is commonly used to get a baseline for your health at an annual checkup. This panel checks for major electrolytes, urea nitrogen (BUN), calcium, and glucose or blood sugar. A chem 6 panel tests for all the same things, minus the calcium and glucose.
This means that a chem 6 panel is less useful for diagnosing diabetes since it doesn’t measure blood sugar. But it still offers vital information about your body’s metabolism, including the levels of essential minerals that support the function of your heart, muscles, and nerves.
What is Included in a Chem 6 panel?
The six tests in a chem 6 panel tell your doctor different things about your body’s storage and use of energy. The tests included in this panel are:
- Sodium, which helps your body’s cells absorb nutrients, and is the most plentiful electrolyte in your body. Imbalances can cause confusion, loss of muscle control, or mood swings.
- Potassium is another electrolyte that affects how your cells process energy. It is directly linked to your heart’s functioning, meaning imbalances can cause weakness, dizziness, abnormal heart rhythms, and potential organ damage.
- Chloride helps your body balance its acidity/alkaline balance, as well as your intracellular fluid levels. Kidney problems are a common result of imbalances in this plentiful electrolyte.
- Carbon dioxide is the last electrolyte tested in a chem 6. Carbon dioxide left in your body, called bicarbonate, assists in maintaining normal pH levels in your blood.
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is a test that examines your kidneys’ function due to how BUN is removed from your body through their waste products.
- Creatinine is chemical waste, produced mainly by properly functioning muscles. Creatinine should be filtered by your kidneys, which means that an imbalance of creatinine could indicate a kidney problem.
Why Do I Need a Chem 6 Panel?
Since a chem 6 panel includes so many tests, only your doctor knows why they ordered the panel for you. However, the main reason a chem 6 panel is prescribed is to check the functions of specific muscles, namely the kidneys and heart. This is due to how many elements of a chem 6 should be filtered by proper kidney functioning, as well as how essential electrolytes are to a healthy heart.
Often, doctors will want to assess your levels of electrolytes to determine if your symptoms could be caused by easily correctable imbalances of these vital minerals. Anything from irregular heartbeats to dizziness to loss of motor control could be caused by a deficiency in electrolytes.
Your doctor may decide to prescribe a basic metabolic panel to cover all the bases. But to save time and money, or if you have recently completed your annual bloodwork, they may order the more specific chem 6 panel to evaluate more closely the levels that they believe could be the problem.
A chem 6 panel is similar to commonly ordered annual blood work, but it doesn’t test for everything. It’s a more specific panel directed at evaluating your body’s balance of electrolytes, which could indicate kidney or heart disease or simply an imbalanced diet.
Speak with your doctor about why they ordered a chem 6 panel to learn more about its impact on your individual symptoms. Once you receive your results, schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor so they can interpret them for you in reference to your unique situation.
Speedy Sticks is a mobile concierge phlebotomy service that provides at-home blood draws and on-site diagnostic/health screenings for businesses and individuals. These include a chem 6 panel, which can be performed by one of our specialists. Book an appointment today to complete your exam.
*This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace consulting with a healthcare professional. Please consult with your primary care physician or healthcare provider before engaging in any services offered by Speedy Sticks.
**These are approximations, and experts disagree on some values. Consult your healthcare provider for recommendations suitable for you. It is also important to ensure the levels are given in the same measurements, such as mg/dL, etc.