Abstract The aims of this study were to assess the prevalence of manometric colonic abnormalities and to evaluate the motor effect of intraluminal bisacodyl in a cohort of refractory constipated patients. Twenty-four hour colonic motility recordings were performed in 40 patients referred for a severe intractable chronic constipation. At the end of each recording session the motor effects of the endoluminal instillation of 10 mg bisacodyl were assessed. These patients were compared with 20 healthy subjects. The number of high-amplitude propagating contractions (HAPC) was significantly decreased in patients with slow transit constipation (12 ± 11.6 vs 1 ± 8.6, P < 0.001). Based on manometric patterns four groups of patients were isolated. Ten patients had no spontaneous HAPC, no food-induced colonic motor response and significantly lower colonic activity in transverse colon (374 ± 1220 vs 3249 ± 3458, P < 0.05). Five patients had significantly increased sigmoid segmental motility (20298 ± 6364 vs 88780 ± 3643, P < 0.001) and eight patients had significantly lower number of HAPC without other manometric abnormalities while 17 patients had normal colonic motility recordings. Endoluminal bisacodyl was able to induce HAPCs in all groups of patients. Patients with severe slow transit refractory constipation represented a heterogeneous group and endoluminal bisacodyl was able to promote a propagated motor activity in a majority of patients even in those suspected of having an inert colon.