To determine whether subchondral bone in osteoarthritis differs from that seen in normal human aging, osteoarthritic femoral heads removed for total hip arthroplasty were compared with normal age-matched and young autopsy controls. Standardized, 1-cm deep, weight-bearing and nonweight-bearing subchondral bone blocks, as well as cancellous core bone, 2-4 cm deep on the articular surface, were examined in each femoral head. Mineralization was assessed using density fractionation and chemical analysis, and compared to histomorphometry. In osteoarthritis, both weight-bearing and nonweight-bearing surface subchondral bone showed a lower degree of mineralization than age-matched and young controls. Histomorphometric analysis showed that subchondral bone thickness, as well as all osteoid parameters and eroded surfaces, were increased in osteoarthritic samples versus controls. Mineralization in the deep cancellous core bone increased with normal aging but underwent less change with osteoarthritis. Histomorphometry of the cancellous core showed that osteoid parameters, but not bone volume, were increased in osteoarthritis versus controls. In conclusion, osteoarthritis is associated with a thickening of the subchondral bone with an abnormally low mineralization pattern.