Abstract The aims of this study were to explore all characteristics of high-amplitude propagated contractions (HAPCs) that would allow them to be distinguished from nonHAPC colonic pressure waves, and to develop computer algorithms for automated HAPC detection. Colonic manometry recordings obtained from 24 healthy volunteers were used. Automated analysis was performed to detect propagated pressure waves and to determine their amplitude, duration and area under the curve (AUC). For each of these variables distribution plots were made. Automated HAPC counts were compared to visual counts by experienced investigators. Distribution plots of 141093 colonic pressure waves lacked a bimodal pattern, as was also the case for propagated contractions (n = 8758). With increasing high-amplitude thresholds for HAPC detection, a gradual decrease in the automatically detected HAPC number was observed. These findings precluded determination of a threshold. Taking visually detected HAPCs as reference, amplitude thresholds of 100 mmHg in two channels, and 80 mmHg in one channel yielded the highest sensitivity (92%). In conclusion, objective criteria to distinguish HAPCs from other propagated pressure waves on the basis of their amplitude, duration or AUC do not exist. Automated detection of HAPCs using empirically derived criteria leads to an acceptable degree of correlation with visually detected HAPCs.