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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 85-89

NOTTO transplant specific guidelines with reference to COVID-19

1 Department of Nephrology, Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Center and Dr. H. L. Trivedi Institute of Transplantation Sciences (IKDRC-ITS), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
2 Department of Transplantation Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, India
3 Former Professor and Head, Nephrology, Benarus Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
4 Managing Trustee, Mohan Foundation, Chennai, India
5 Department of Nephrology, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
6 Department of Nephrology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
7 Department of Nephrology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamilnadu, India
8 Department of Liver Transplant Surgery, Max Center of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Max Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, India
9 Department of Heart and Lung Transplant, Apollo Hospital, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, Telengana, India
10 Department of Nephrology, Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad, Telengana, India
11 Department of Transplant Surgery, The Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India
12 Department of Nephrology, Venkateshwar Hospital, New Delhi, India
13 Department of Nephrology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India
14 Department of Nephrology, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Sawangi, Wardha, Maharashtra, India
15 Department of Nephrology, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, Bihar, India
16 Department of Pathology, IKDRC-ITS, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
17 Department of Nephrology, SGPGI, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
18 Department of Nephrology, PGIMER, Chandigarh, India
19 Department of Nephrology, SMS Medical College, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
20 Department of Nephrology, IKDRC-ITS, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
21 Director, Department of Surgery, National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation, VMMC and Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, India
22 Director General of Health Services, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission22-Jun-2020
Date of Acceptance25-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication06-Jul-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Vasanthi R
Director, National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization, NIOP Building, Safdarjung Hospital campus
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijot.ijot_62_20

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How to cite this article:
Kute V, Guleria S, Prakash J, Shroff S, Prasad N, Agarwal SK, Varughese S, Gupta S, Gokhale A G, Sahay M, Sharma A, Varma P, Bhalla A, Vardhan H, Balwani M, Dave S, Bhadauria D, Rathi M, Agarwal D, Shah P, Vasanthi R, Garg R. NOTTO transplant specific guidelines with reference to COVID-19. Indian J Transplant 2020;14:85-9

How to cite this URL:
Kute V, Guleria S, Prakash J, Shroff S, Prasad N, Agarwal SK, Varughese S, Gupta S, Gokhale A G, Sahay M, Sharma A, Varma P, Bhalla A, Vardhan H, Balwani M, Dave S, Bhadauria D, Rathi M, Agarwal D, Shah P, Vasanthi R, Garg R. NOTTO transplant specific guidelines with reference to COVID-19. Indian J Transplant [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Sep 25];14:85-9. Available from: https://www.ijtonline.in/text.asp?2020/14/2/85/289049

  Introduction Top

Novel corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) infection starting since December 2019 has resulted in pandemic within few weeks' time. In addition to elderly and patients with associated comorbidities, organ transplant recipients are at a risk for more severe COVID-19 if they get SARS CoV-2 viral infection. Further, there is potential risk of infection transmission from the donor to recipient through organ transplantation. Also, there are issues in recipient and donor selection for transplant. In view of these issues, organ transplant at the time of COVID-19 pandemic should be undertaken with caution. The optimal approach to corona virus disease (COVID-19) screening in organ recipients and donors may change over time as more data accumulate [1],[2],[3].

Organ transplantation for end stage organ failure can be a lifesaving intervention in patients with organ failure and mostly can be performed electively with few exceptions. Patients with acute liver failure, acute on chronic liver failure and those with hepatocellular cancer need an urgent transplant. Some countries have stopped living donor organ transplants (with exception for life saving measures) while some continue with deceased donor organ transplantation. However, due to risk of COVID-19 related morbidity and mortality in the recipient and living donor and cross infection of COVID-19 among other patients and health care workers (HCW), there is need for assessing the overall risk v/s benefit of organ transplantation. If in certain organs the risk of death is higher due to waiting then that patient should be considered for organ transplantation. As the situation improves, there may need to be a phased increment in transplantation services. It may be prudent to limit transplants to those who are struggling with non-transplant modalities of treatment.

The risk-benefit ratio should be the key point to be exercised in deciding the need for transplantation as post-transplant these patients will be kept on immunosuppressive drugs which will make them prone to acquiring covid-19 infection.

All transplant teams can quickly build up a database and assess regarding number of patients currently contactable, their ability to procure medicines in the current lockdown and connectivity with their doctors, number of patients who developed COVID-19 and their outcome. This will help each of the regions to set up support systems not only for already transplanted patients but also for the new transplants.

While recommending organ transplantation during COVID-19 pandemic, following general safeguards have to be ensured by each hospital:

  1. Safety of health care professionals (doctors, nurses, coordinators, technicians, hospital attendants, housekeeping staffs, ambulance drivers) by providing required PPE as per their risk stratification
  2. Prevention of transmission of COVID-19 from patients (recipients & donors) to HCWs and vice-versa by having proper facilities for universal precaution including isolation in pre and post- transplant period.
  3. Prevention of cross infection of COVID-19 from these patients (recipients& donors) to other non-transplant patients

  General Precautions Top

  1. Before restarting transplant program in the era of COVID-19, we recommend that each transplant hospital does a detailed assessment of epidemiology, current trends, surge capacity and impact of COVID-19 as well as assessment of ICU facility and team in respective hospitals. Only after that, transplant can proceed with caution if the above concerns have been addressed.
  2. Before transplanting new patient, we suggest to initiate assessment of existing transplant recipients for their access to drugs. Patients transplanted in COVID-19 pandemic should have the same stringent follow up as they would have got prior to it.
  3. We suggest a team of HCW (transplant coordinators and transplant team members) should be designated to care EXCLUSIVELY for transplant cases (COVID FREE safe transplant pathway) to reduce the risk of transmission. When feasible all transplant units should define two teams which are separate and not working together and which should have independent transplant surgeon, physician and intensivist so that all surgical and medical problems can be handled if one team gets quarantined or exposed. The teams can alternate for each patient. Transplant teams should reserve personnel at all levels so that in case a member needs quarantine on account of COVID-19 infection, the care of the patient should not suffer. Alternatively, an informal understanding should take place between transplant centres in the same city to provide cross over in such an eventuality
  4. We recommend all transplant recipients and donors should sign the fully documented written informed CONSENT accepting a potential risk of COVID-19 infection during hospital stay and after transplant. It should include risk and benefit of transplantation vs available alternative treatment such as dialysis in case of renal failure.
  5. We recommend adequate availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) (i.e., triple layer masks, N95 respirators (preferably without valves), gloves, gowns, goggles, face shields, shoes/ shoe covers) as per GOVERNMENT guidelines [1],[2].
  6. We recommend routine training of HCW on use and disposal of PPE [1],[2] [Table 1], [Table 2].
  7. We recommend ensuring HCW should receive adequate required training on various components of “universal precautions” (hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and social distancing etc.)[1],[2]

Transplant unit preparedness checklist developed to deliver safe transplant during and after COVID-19 pandemic

Click here to view

Click here to view

  Recipient and Donor Related Top

8. We recommend haemodialysis unit preparedness and safe dialysis delivery based on the Government of India guidelines for dialysis before transplant [4],[5].

9. We recommend routine CLINICAL and EPIDEMIOLOGICAL screening for COVID-19 in donors, recipients, HCW and care takers [6],[7],[8] [Table 1], [Table 2].

  1. CLINICAL screening: fever (>38°C or 100.3°F) and/or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or chest tightness), anosmia, sore throat, flu like symptoms.

    1. Travel to or residing in an area in the preceding 21 days, where localCOVID-19 transmission is occurring
    2. Confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in the last 28 days
    3. Direct contact with known or suspected case of COVID-19 in the preceding 21 days.
    4. Travel to or residing in an area which has been designated as a containment zone in the last 28 days

10. We recommend routine LABORATORY screening with COVID-19 real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test of airway specimen for both donor and recipient with the testing occurring as close as possible prior to surgery within 24–72 hours in both living and deceased donor organ transplants. Chest CT scan of the donor is mandatory prior to lung transplantation, and may also be required in other transplants for donor and / or recipient if suggested by the transplant team [9],[10].

11. Living donor with positive COVID-19 test should not donate for at least 3-6months until the long-term outcome of cured COVID-19 becomes clear. However, in case of life saving transplants, we suggest accepting donor with a previous diagnosis of COVID-19 with documented two negative COVID-19 tests and complete symptom resolution for 28 days and another negative test at the time of donation.

12. We suggest practicing social distancing for 14 days prior to surgery for both living donor and recipient and using surgical facemask when going out in public

13. We recommend minimizing the use of energy devices during procedures when possible. When energy is needed, we recommend avoiding the ultrasonic scalpel and lower energy settings to minimize surgical smoke.

14. We suggest use of induction and other immunosuppressive drugs based on recipient's own immune risk stratification as being practised before COVID-19.

15. We suggest restricting movement of recipient to other hospital areas. Use designated portable X-ray equipment and/or other designated diagnostic equipment. If transport is mandatory, use predetermined transport routes to minimize exposure to staff, other patients, and visitors, and patient must use surgical mask. Ensure that HCWs who are transporting patients perform hand hygiene and use surgical mask.

16. We recommend limiting visitors to those essential for patient support and visitors use surgical mask and keep social distancing. Visitor's records should be maintained for contact tracing if required in future.

17. We suggest managing laboratory specimens, laundry, food service utensils, and medical waste following safe routine procedures according to infection prevention control guidelines.

18. We recommend use of disposable equipments as far as possible or if equipments (e.g., stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, food trays) need to be re-used, then clean and disinfect between use for each patient (e.g., by cleaning with ethyl alcohol 70% or 1% sodium hypochlorite).

19. We recommend routine cleaning and disinfecting surfaces with which the patient is in contact with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution.

20. If recipient and /or donor become COVID-19 positive, we suggest treatment as per local authority guidelines as currently there is no standard accepted treatment guidelines. There is no consensus regarding modification in immunosuppressive regimen. Transplant team should make a case by case evaluation for dose adjustment to balance infection control & rejection.

21. We suggest telemedicine for encouraging social distancing when feasible. Telemedicine consultation is not a substitute to in-person consultation where clinical examination is required.

22. We suggest using AarogyaSetuApp, taking extra care of the elderly, healthy lifestyle for all, and strict adherence to universal precautions all the time to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

23. We recommend these guidelines and checklist should be used in conjunction with local policies and official guidance from health authorities or hospitals as per changing situation.

24. We recommend that all infection prevention and control measures shall be implemented.

25. In order to ensure monitoring the compliance to guidelines, State appropriate authority, concerned SOTTO and ROTTO should monitor compliance to the guidelines through seeking detailed data from the hospitals in this regard and sharing the same with NOTTO on regular basis.

Futuristic approach for COVID-19 testing protocol for planned surgery - The patients should get admitted in isolation 24 hours before planned surgery.[11]

At present, there is no recommendation for prophylactic medications such as hydroxychloroquine for transplant patients.

  Conclusion Top

Given that the epidemiological situation is constantly evolving, it is recommended that each transplant team assess the current scenario that best describes their local situation [6],[12]. Any transplant program should make a CASE BY CASE evaluation when assessing the convenience of carrying out a transplant based on availability of health care resources including ICU; risk/benefit of exposing an immunosuppressed patient to the potential risk of COVID-19 (according to the number of cases and the possibility of admission under ideal isolation conditions) versus the urgent medical need for transplantation (clinical situation of the patient).


NOTTO wishes to thank other members of the Indian Society of Transplantation (ISOT), Liver Transplant Society of India(LTSI) and the Indian Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (INSHLT) for their expert input, critical review and approval of this statement. The authors have not received any funding or grants in support of the presented research or for the preparation of this work and have no potential declarations of interest.


These recommendations/suggestions may require regular updating to account for the changing epidemiology and new information regarding treatment and testing. Updated 18th May 2020.

Note: This special article is being published simultaneously in the Indian Journal of Transplantation and the Indian Journal of Nephrology, as per the decision of Editor-In-Chiefs of both these journals.

  References Top

Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/. [Last Accessed on 2020 Apr 19].  Back to cited text no. 1
WHO. Available from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 01].  Back to cited text no. 2
Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/GuidelinesforDialysisofCovid19Patients.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 01].  Back to cited text no. 4
Ahn C, Amer H, Anglicheau D, Ascher N, Baan C, Bat-Ireedui, et al. Global Transplantation COVID Report March 2020. Transplantation 2020. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000003258  Back to cited text no. 6
SanjivSaigal, Subash Gupta, Sudhindran S, Neerav Goyal, Amit Rastogi, Mathew Jacob, et al. Liver transplantation and COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infection: guidelines of the liver transplant Society of India (LTSI). Hepatol Int. 2020:1-3.doi: 10.1007/s12072-020-10041-1.  Back to cited text no. 8
D'Andrea A, Di Giannuario G, Marrazzo G, Riegler L, Mele D, Rizzo M, et al. The role of multimodality imaging in COVID-19 patients: from diagnosis to clinical monitoring and prognosis]. G ItalCardiol (Rome). Italian 2020;21:345-53.  Back to cited text no. 9
Zhou S, Wang Y, Zhu T, Xia L. CT Features of Coronavirus Disease 2019(COVID-19) Pneumonia in 62 Patients in Wuhan, China. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2020:1-8. doi: 10.2214/AJR.20.22975.  Back to cited text no. 10
Al-Muharraqi MA. Testing recommendation for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) in patients planned for surgery - continuing the service and 'suppressing' the pandemic. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2020. pii: S0266-4356(20)30164-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2020.04.014.  Back to cited text no. 11
Martino F, Plebani M, Ronco C. Kidney transplant programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet Respir Med. 2020.  Back to cited text no. 12


  [Table 1], [Table 2]

This article has been cited by
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