What is an ommaya reservoir?
An ommaya reservoir is a surgically implanted device that provides direct access to the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). An ommaya reservoir may also be referred to as an ommaya shunt. A provider may suggest an ommaya reservoir be placed in patients who will require frequent administration of chemotherapy to treat cancer cells in the CSF or frequent removal of CSF for testing.
An ommaya reservoir consists of a small port (about the size of a quarter) that is placed underneath the skin on the head, which is attached to a catheter (tube) that is threaded into a ventricle (open space) in the brain. CSF is produced in the ventricles and an ommaya reservoir gains direct access to the CSF. You will be able to feel the port that sits under your skin and your skin will be elevated in that area.
How is the ommaya reservoir placed?
An ommaya reservoir is placed under general anesthesia in the operating room. The procedure is performed by a neurosurgeon and takes about an hour. Your head will be shaved where the ommaya is placed. The surgeon will create a small incision to place the ommaya in, which is usually closed with sutures or staples. The site will be covered by a bandage that can be removed the next day. You will also have to have a CT scan of your head to ensure proper placement prior to the use of your ommaya reservoir.
Because the placement of an ommaya reservoir is a surgical procedure, you may be instructed to refrain from eating at least eight hours prior to the procedure. You may also be told to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, prior to your surgery. It is important to follow the instructions given to you by your surgeon.
How do I care for the ommaya?
Follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding care of your ommaya shunt after placement. You may not be able to shower for the first couple of days after surgery and you will want to keep your incision clean and dry. If the site becomes red, tender, bleeds uncontrollably, oozes pus, or if the incision opens, notify your surgeon immediately. If you are having dizziness or headaches, contact your surgeon.