UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science


Little Journey Trial Information

Little Journey


A multi-centre randomised controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of the Little Journey app at reducing peri-operative anxiety compared to standard care?

Over half a million children have a general anaesthetic (go to sleep) for an operation in the UK each year.  Around three-quarters of these children become distressed or anxious before they go to sleep, which is linked with delays in recovery from surgery and later problems such as difficulty sleeping, nightmares and bedwetting. Medicines and other treatments to calm children may either cause other problems or are very expensive. To try to solve these problems, our team have developed Little Journey: a virtual reality (VR) app to prepare children for going to hospital and their operation. VR games are more and more common now

Our app is used on smartphones, with a disposable cardboard headset which we provide free. It enables children to explore their hospital environment and meet with animations (cartoons) of doctors and nurses that move around in a natural way. The app shows children what the inside of the hospital looks like, the people they will meet, and the equipment they will see.

The Little Journey trial will find out whether use of our VR app at home before coming to hospital for surgery, reduces anxiety in 3 to 12-year-old children and whilst asleep, with 304 children taking part in the research.  Half will be given our headset and VR app to use at home at least two-weeks before their surgery.  The other half will be given only the headset which they can use for fun with other openly available VR apps. We will measure how anxious children and parents are before the operation and up to 4-weeks after surgery.  By comparing the level of anxiety between children who do and do not have access to the app, we will be able to tell whether or not it works.

The sponsor of the Little Journey Trial is University College London and the trial is funded by the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit.