The immersive virtual reality experience helping kids fight pain

Welcome to Little-NIRVANA, a new, integrated and interactive pain management solution for children


Millions of children endure painful medical events annually, such as vaccinations, blood sampling, minor surgery or invasive examinations – understandably, a scary prospect for children. Their fear of a potentially painful treatment can make treatment difficult and lead to anxiety before any medical intervention, even in adult life.

Pain is a vital sign that needs addressing, according to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisations. Recognising the strong link between pain and fear, the Commission recommends that pain therapy be accompanied with psychological interventions, helping children feel more trusting of, and empowered by, clinicians.

The Little-NIRVANA consortium saw a gap for a more holistic, child-centred approach, offering continuous care and empowerment throughout the whole patient journey. Holistic tools, such as educational modules, active distraction games and training tools with bio feedback are vital, but haven’t been available.

“Wow. This is a great project. When can I use this?”


Little-NIRVANA: a new tool to battle paediatric pain

Little-NIRVANA uses gamification technology – an app and VR – to focus on the child’s needs in the care pathway from home to hospital bed, enhancing the child’s wellbeing, and leading to an eventual healthcare cost reduction.

The app contains educational, relaxation and training modules, for children and parents at home preparing for an upcoming hospital visit, and for use in the waiting room.

Meanwhile, a multi-sensory VR game, which vibrates in line with the action on-screen and includes a scent device, acts as a distraction during medical procedures. A dashboard allows the medical health professional to see what the child is seeing and adjust the programme depending on the patient’s reactions, while monitoring their pain through AI-based pain monitor, MedaSense.

By using a mix of VR and non-VR-based modules, Little-NIRVANA aims to create tailored experiences to build up the children’s trust when visiting a healthcare professional, while helping them to handle pain.

A strong team with complementary strengths supported by EIT Health

Through their partnership with EIT Health, Little-NIRVANA can access a vast network of collaborators across Europe. These relationships have been vital in raising awareness of the tool, and gaining interest from investors. EIT Health will help accelerate Little-NIRVANA’s roll-out across Europe and provide essential support to its future projects.

“Little-NIRVANA … has the science, the team and the spirit to be a real game-changer for a precious and vulnerable patient population. And I am very honoured (and humbled) that I am given the opportunity to make this come true.”

Babs Weyn, PhD,Innovation Manager, Medical Image Research Center (MIRC), KU Leuven

Babs Weyn, PhD
Medical Image Research Center (MIRC) | Innovation manager | KU Leuven