We followed 130 postmenopausal women without evidence of vertebral deformity by lateral spine radiographs on entry into study for 2 years, and repeat spine radiographs were taken at the end of that time. Incident deformities occurring within this 2 year period were detected by two methods, a level-specific radiogrammetric approach and visual inspection by skilled clinicians. Fourteen incident deformities were detected by the radiogrammetric method, and 19 by the clinicians. Ultrasound transmission velocity was measured at the patella in each subject on entry. Values for ultrasound velocity were significantly correlated with incident fracture occurrence, with individuals having velocity values more than one standard deviation below the mean for the group exhibiting from 3.3 to 4.6 times the probability of incident fracture as individuals with velocity values more than one standard deviation above the mean. Thus, low values for ultrasound transmission velocity at the patella detect yet-unexpressed bony fragility at the spine and predict future fracture.