Ommaya Reservoir

Author: Marisa Healy, BSN, RN
Last Reviewed: November 09, 2023

What is an ommaya reservoir?

An ommaya reservoir, also called an ommaya shunt, is a small port (about the size of a quarter) that is placed underneath the skin on the head. The port is attached to a catheter (tube) that is threaded into a ventricle (open space) in the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is made in the ventricles, and an ommaya reservoir gains direct access to the CSF. A provider may suggest an ommaya reservoir if:

  • You will need frequent administration of chemotherapy to treat cancer cells in the CSF.
  • You will need frequent removal of CSF for testing.

How is the ommaya reservoir placed?

An ommaya reservoir is placed during surgery while under general anesthesia (you will be asleep). It is done by a neurosurgeon. Your head will be shaved where the ommaya is placed. The surgeon will create a small incision to place the ommaya, which is usually closed with sutures, staples, or glue. The site will be covered by a bandage that can often be removed the next day. You will also have a CT scan of your head to make sure it is in the right place before your ommaya reservoir is used. You will be able to feel the port that sits under your skin and your skin will be raised in that area.

Because the placement of an ommaya reservoir is a surgical procedure, you may be told to not have anything to eat at least eight hours before the surgery. You may also be told to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, before your surgery. It is important to follow the instructions given to you by your care team.

How do I care for the ommaya?

Follow your care team’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, call your surgeon or care team right away. If you are having dizziness or headaches, call your care team.

References

Healthline. Ommaya Reservoirs. Found at: https://www.healthline.com/health/ommaya-reservoir#takeaway

Lane, Jessica and Zacharia, Brad E. Endoscopic-Assisted Ommaya Reservoir Placement: Technical Note. Cureus. 2017. 9(7): e 1490. Found at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605123/

Zubair A, De Jesus O. Ommaya Reservoir. 2023. Found at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559011/

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