Regional bone mineral density (BMD, g/cm2) of the proximal tibia including the subchondral plate was measured in vivo by dual photon absorptiometry (DPA). Twenty-one women and six men with gonarthrosis (GA) were examined. Twenty-four healthy women served as controls for the women. The precision error of the BMD measurements ranged from 1.4-3.7% depending on the region measured. Subchondral BMD correlated significantly to the radiologic stage (P < 0.05). Compared to the controls, BMD of the subchondral plate, BMD of the medial condyle, the medial to lateral distribution ratio of subchondral BMD and the ratio between BMD of the subchondral plate and of the immediately underlying region were significantly increased in patients with predominantly medial GA (P < 0.05-0.0001). The BMD of the lateral condyle was lower in GA patients than in controls (P < 0.05). In patients with unilateral GA, the above-mentioned changes were found in the affected tibia compared to the normal knee in the same individual (P < 0.05). In contrast to any of the patients with varus deformity, the two patients with valgus deformity had higher BMD of the lateral condyle than of the medial. No differences in BMD of the distal forearm or the ultradistal region of the proximal tibia were found between the GA patients and the controls. The study shows that regional bone changes of the proximal tibia in GA can be measured precisely and noninvasively in vivo by DPA.