We undertook a comparative study of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) vertebral morphometry of thoracic vertebrae of girls with adolescent idiopathic thoracic scoliosis (AIS) and age and gender-matched normal subjects, in order to investigate abnormal differential growth of the anterior and posterior elements of the thoracic vertebrae in patients with scoliosis. Previous studies have suggested that disproportionate growth of the anterior and posterior columns may contribute to the development of AIS. Whole spine MRI was undertaken on 83 girls with AIS between the age of 12 and 14 years, and Cobb's angles of between 20 degrees and 90 degrees, and 22 age-matched controls. Multiple measurements of each thoracic vertebra were obtained from the best sagittal and axial MRI cuts. Compared with the controls, the scoliotic spines had longer vertebral bodies between T1 and T12 in the anterior column and shorter pedicles with a larger interpedicular distance in the posterior column. The differential growth between the anterior and the posterior elements of each thoracic vertebra in the patients with AIS was significantly different from that in the controls (p < 0.01). There was also a significant positive correlation between the scoliosis severity score and the ratio of differential growth between the anterior and posterior columns for each thoracic vertebra (p < 0.01). Compared with age-matched controls, the longitudinal growth of the vertebral bodies in patients with AIS is disproportionate and faster and mainly occurs by endochondral ossification. In contrast, the circumferential growth by membranous ossification is slower in both the vertebral bodies and pedicles.