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Ommaya Reservoir: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

An Ommaya (say "oh-MY-uh") reservoir is a small, soft, dome-shaped container. It is placed under your scalp. It has a thin tube called a catheter attached to it. The catheter extends into one of the open spaces (ventricles) in your brain. The ventricle is filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF flows around the brain and spinal cord.

The reservoir is a way to deliver medicines, such as chemotherapy or antibiotics, directly to your brain and spinal cord. This type of chemotherapy is called intrathecal chemotherapy. The reservoir can also be used to take samples of CSF for testing. The doctor will put a small needle into the reservoir to give medicine or take samples.

Surgery to place the reservoir takes about an hour. You will get medicine to make you sleep during the surgery.

Your head will be shaved around the surgery area. The surgeon will make a small cut (incision) in your scalp and a small hole in your skull. The catheter is threaded through the hole and into the brain. The surgeon places the reservoir under the scalp. Then the incision is closed with stitches or staples.

You may go home the same day, or you may stay in the hospital overnight. Before you leave, you may have a CT scan to check the placement of the reservoir and catheter.

Your doctor will tell you when to come back for incision care. Usually this is 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.

After the incision heals, the reservoir will not need any special care. You will have a small bump on your head where the reservoir is located.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Keep your incision clean and dry until the stitches are removed.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your incision, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash around the incision with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the incision with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay to shower. Don't swim or take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Do not wash your hair or scalp until the incision has healed.
  • Check your incision each day for any redness, swelling, or drainage.
  • Take care not to bump or injure the area where the reservoir is located.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are very confused or can't think clearly.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a stiff neck.
  • You have a severe headache.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the incision.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.