The aim of this study was to correlate colonic motility with transit in 8 patients with functional diarrhea compared to 12 healthy subjects. Intraluminal pressure was measured with perfused catheter ports in the transverse colon, splenic flexure, and descending and sigmoid colons. Transit of the luminal contents was measured by following the movement of 99mTC-diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid instilled as a bolus in the splenic flexure. In patients with diarrhea, the intraluminal marker moved in and out of the transverse and sigmoid colon regions of interest during fasting, unlike healthy subjects, in whom the marker remained in the splenic flexure. After eating, radioactivity immediately increased in both the transverse and sigmoid colons in healthy subjects. In the patients with diarrhea, eating did not alter the marker movement into the different regions of the colon compared with fasting. Within 100 minutes of eating, the intraluminal marker almost disappeared from the regions of interest in patients with diarrhea. Postprandial colonic nonpropagating contractions increased in each region of the colon in healthy subjects; there was only a small postprandial increase in colonic motility in patients with diarrhea. However, the numbers of fasting and postprandial propagating contractions were increased in patients with diarrhea compared with healthy subjects (P less than 0.02). Each propagating contraction moved more tracer in patients with diarrhea than in healthy subjects (P less than 0.05). These studies suggest that (a) in patients with diarrhea, the fluctuation of marker in both transverse and sigmoid colons during the fasting and postprandial periods is associated with decreased nonsegmenting contractions and frequent propagating contractions; and (b) in healthy subjects, the intraluminal marker moved after eating because of a pressure gradient caused by nonpropagating contractions.