We obtained medial and lateral subchondral cancellous bone specimens from ten human post-mortem proximal tibiae with early osteoarthritis (OA) and ten normal age- and gender-matched proximal tibiae. The specimens were scanned by micro-CT and the three-dimensional microstructural properties were quantified. Medial OA cancellous bone was significantly thicker and markedly plate-like, but lower in mechanical properties than normal bone. Similar microstructural changes were also observed for the lateral specimens from OA bone, although there had been no sign of cartilage damage. The increased trabecular thickness and density, but relatively decreased connectivity suggest a mechanism of bone remodelling in early OA as a process of filling trabecular cavities. This process leads to a progressive change of trabeculae from rod-like to plate-like, the opposite to that of normal ageing. The decreased mechanical properties of subchondral cancellous bone in OA, which are due to deterioration in architecture and density, indicate poor bone quality.