In this section
The colon (large bowel) is part of the digestive system, which carries food through the body after it is eaten. The colon is where stool (poo) is formed, stored, and eliminated. The colon contracts rhythmically to push the food and waste along.
The muscles and nerves of the colon need to work together to produce these contractions. These movements are referred to as colonic motility. Motility may be measured using a technique called colonic manometry. This technique records the pressure waves when the colon contracts.
In some cases, the contractions of the colon may be changed or absent. This may lead to problems, such as constipation or soiling. Colonic manometry aims to measure these contractions. It gives us an understanding of how the muscles and nerves of the colon are working together.
Colonic manometry requires:
To perform colonic manometry, a thin, flexible tube (catheter) is placed into your child’s colon. The tube is filled with water, which drips out of small holes along the side of the tube. A machine measures the changes in pressure of the water leaving the tube. This provides a picture of the patterns of contraction and relaxation along the colon.
To place the manometry tube, your child will require a colonoscopy. This is a procedure where a gastroenterologist (a doctor specialising in the digestive system) looks at the inside of the colon.
The colonoscopy is done with a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end, called a colonoscope. The colonoscope is inserted into the anus (bottom) and slowly pushed into the colon. The colon is examined and biopsies (small samples of bowel) may be taken. Your child will be under a general anaesthetic for the placement of the manometry tube.
For more information, see our fact sheet Endoscopy – Colonoscopy.
Provided your child is feeling well, eating and drinking normally, and no further tests are planned for their admission, you will be able to head home in the evening after the test.
The results will be discussed with you and your child at their next outpatient appointment.
Your child may have one or more of the following side effects. These usually get better without special treatment.
Call the hospital if your child has:
Do all children need a general anaesthetic?
Although not painful, a colonoscopy is very uncomfortable and children would not tolerate it if they were fully awake. For this reason, a light general anaesthetic is used to keep your child still, comfortable, and pain-free during the procedure.
What are the risks of the manometry study?
Please speak to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the study.
Developed by Departments of Gastroenterology and Paediatric Surgery at The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed June 2020.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.