The purpose of the present study was to introduce a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure showing the whole spine in a coronal and sagittal plane, and to study the assessment of sagittal Cobb angle measurements using this technique. Prospectively we studied 32 patients (average age 14.8 years) with idiopathic scoliosis (mean thoracic Cobb angle 33 degrees on radiograph) and 18 patients (average age 14.5 years) without scoliosis. The MRI investigation was carried out in a standard supine position. The cervical and upper thoracic spine and the lower thoracic and lumbar spine were measured on a 1.5-T Gyroscan ACS-NT Powertrak 6000 system. An algorithm was developed to combine the results of the cranial and caudal scans into a coronal and a sagittal image of the whole spine (MR total spine imaging). Measurement of the sagittal Cobb angle conducted ten times by four independent investigators revealed an intraobserver variance of 1.6 degrees and an interobserver variance of 1.8 degrees. In the group with scoliosis the mean sagittal Cobb angle from T4 to T12 was 12 degrees (range -3 degrees to 24 degrees) and in the group without scoliosis 22 degrees (range 16 degrees to 30 degrees), which was a significant difference. MR total spine imaging makes it possible to image scoliosis in the sagittal plane. On these MR projections, idiopathic thoracic scoliosis was identified by a reduced sagittal Cobb angle. MR total spine imaging would allow monitoring of scoliosis in the sagittal plane, which can reveal relevant clinical data without radiation exposure.