Twenty-six women with untreated postmenopausal osteoporosis underwent iliac crest biopsy following tetracycline-labeling and mineral metabolism studies. Histomorphometric assessment of their bone remodeling rates, including formation determined by the tetracycline-labeling technique, revealed considerable variation. Eight women had no evidence of active bone formation (inactive remodeling osteoporosis), whereas the others showed a spectrum of bone formation rates (active remodeling osteoporosis). Clinical and biochemical studies failed to predict the histomorphometric findings. Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a histologically heterogeneous disorder with morphologic expression in bone that cannot be predicted by single or combined routine clinical and laboratory parameters. Bone biopsy, necessary to identify the histologic lesion and assess skeletal dynamics, may prove to be important for optimal therapy of osteoporosis, as a variety of agents-with different effects on bone remodeling-are available.