Virtual colonoscopy is becoming a more prevalent way to diagnose colon cancer. One of the critical elements in detecting cancerous polyps using virtual colonoscopy, especially in conjunction with computer-aided detection of polyps, is that the colon be sufficiently distended. We have developed an automatic method to determine from a CT scan what percentage of the colon is distended by 1cm or larger and compared our method with a radiologist's assessment of quality of the scan with respect to successful colon polyp detection. A radiologist grouped 41 CT virtual colonoscopy scans into three groups according to the degree of colonic distention, "well", "medium", and "poor". We also employed a subvoxel accurate centerline algorithm and a subvoxel accurate distance transform to each dataset to measure the colon distention along the centerline. To summarize the colonic distention with a single value relevant for polyp detection, the distention score, we recorded the percentage of centerline positions in which the colon distention was 1cm or larger. We then compared the radiologist's assessment and the computed results. The sorting of all datasets according to the distention score agreed with the radiologist's assessment. The "poor" cases had a mean and standard deviation score of 78.4% ± 5.2%, the "medium" cases measured 88.7% ± 1.9%, and the "well" cases 98.8% ± 1.5%. All categories were shown to be significantly different from each other using unpaired two sample t-tests. The presented colonic distention score is an accurate method for assessing the quality of colonic distention for CT colonography.