COVID-19: What Organ Transplant Recipients Should Know

May 2, 2020

People who have received an organ transplant – such as a kidney, heart, liver, or lung – have weaker immune systems, due to the transplant medications they take to reduce the chance that their bodies will reject the new organ. This weakened immunity, however, can make organ transplant recipients more susceptible to infections – including viral infections such as COVID-19 – and may make them more prone to developing complications if they do get infected.

If you have received an organ transplant, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. We’ve prepared this information to provide you with guidance and support.

What is the best way to protect myself from COVID-19 if I received an organ transplant and I’m taking immunosuppressive medications?

Many patients who have acquired the COVID-19 infection caught it from a family member who lives in the same household. It is especially important for you and all of your family members to follow social distancing and sanitary guidelines to reduce your chance of getting sick.

Family members need to understand that protecting you means taking care of themselves, too. Everyone should:

  • Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Maintain “social distancing,” staying at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow, or into a tissue that you immediately throw away.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home every day.
  • Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick.
  • Wear a cloth face covering if you have to go out in public. Family members who may have been exposed to COVID-19 should consider wearing a cloth mask if they are unable to practice 6 feet of social distancing from others in the household.

Should I change or stop using my transplant medications to prevent COVID-19 infection?

It is very important that you do not adjust your medications without the guidance of your transplant team. If you have questions about your medications, discuss them with your transplant physician.

In general, doctors do not reduce the use of transplant medications to prevent infections. However, once an infection develops, they sometimes lower the use of some of the transplant medications to help speed recovery.

Can I still get a new organ transplant during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. While many transplant centers in New Jersey and New York have limited or temporarily suspended new transplants for a short while due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hackensack University Medical Center Organ Transplant Division team is seeing new patients for transplant evaluation via telehealth visits. Through these virtual visits, patients from near and far can connect with our transplant team quickly and potentially get on the list for transplantation from the comfort of their own living rooms.

Next Steps & Resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.