During the procedure
A cholesterol test is a blood test, usually done in the morning since you'll need to fast for the most accurate results. Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from your arm. Before the needle is inserted, the puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic and an elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. This causes the veins in your arm to fill with blood.
After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood is collected into a vial or syringe. The band is then removed to restore circulation, and blood continues to flow into the vial. Once enough blood is collected, the needle is removed and the puncture site is covered with a bandage.
The entire procedure will likely last a couple of minutes. It's relatively painless.
After the procedure
There are no special precautions you need to take after your cholesterol test. You should be able to drive yourself home and do all your normal activities. You may want to bring a snack to eat after your cholesterol test is done, if you've been fasting.
It may take a few days to get your results. Your doctor should explain to you what the results of your test mean. It's likely your doctor will want to retest you in several weeks or months if your test shows your cholesterol levels are high. Before starting any treatment based on an abnormal cholesterol test, it's common to get several tests done over a period of time to ensure an accurate result.
Nov. 12, 2014
- Executive summary. Third report of the expert panel on the detection, evaluation and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults (adult treatment panel III). Bethesda, Md.: National Heart, Lung, and blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol. Accessed Nov. 6, 2012.
- What is cholesterol? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/. Accessed Nov. 8, 2012.
- What are blood tests? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/. Accessed Nov. 8, 2012.
- What your cholesterol levels mean. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp. Accessed Nov. 8, 2012.
- Ask Mayo Expert. Screening recommendations for asymptomatic men. Rochester, Minn. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 2010.
- Cholesterol. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/cholesterol/test.html. Accessed Nov. 6, 2012.
- Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics. 2011;128:S213.
- Women and cholesterol. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/UnderstandYourRiskforHighCholesterol/Women-and-Cholesterol_UCM_305565_Article.jsp. Accessed Nov. 8, 2012.
- Behrenbeck T (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 3, 2012.
- Lopez-Jimenez F (expert opinion) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 2, 2014.