The sitz or plastic marker study for colonic transit has been around for many years. It is applicable where an X-ray machine exists, is widely used and is accepted as the gold standard for diagnosing constipation. Recently, radiopharmaceutical methods have been developed. The theme of this review is their possible roles in the assessment of paediatric bowel motility disorders in patients presenting to paediatric surgeons. This review presents data on total and segmental transit in normal adults and children and comparing the two techniques in adults. Reliability and reproducibility are presented. Normative data for colonic transit in adults and children are discussed and parameters for assessing abnormal transit are reviewed. Normal colonic transit takes 20-56 h. Plastic marker studies are more readily accessible, but the assessment may be misleading with current methods. Plastic markers show faster transit than scintigraphy. It is difficult to compare the two techniques because methods of reporting are different. Using scintigraphy, repeatability is good. Separation of normal from slow transit in the ascending colon is apparent at 24 and 48 h, but the determination of transit through the distal colon/rectum in adults may require studies of more than 7 days. In conclusion, plastic marker studies and scintigraphy show similar transit rates in young adults and children. However, scintigraphy has advantages of allowing transit through the stomach and small intestine to be measured and has proved useful in the diagnostic workup of children with intractable constipation.