The transverse grwoth of long bones during intrauterine development was studied in rat fetuses subjected to experimental oligohydramnios in order to determine wheter the skeletal changes, if any, in extrinsic fetal akinesia were similar to those observed in curarized rat fetuses with the fetal akinesia deformation sequence. Oligohydramnios was induced by daily extraction of amniotic fluid from day 17 of gestation until term. Experimental fetuses were compared with a sham-operated control group. The total area and perimeter, the absolute and relative amount of periosteum and bone trabeculae, the major and minor axes, and the elongation factor were measured in histological cross sections of the femoral metaphysis and diaphysis with an IBAS 1 image analysis system. Rat fetuses in the experimental group showed multiple articular contractures, redundant skin, and lung hypoplasia, a phenotype consistent with the oligohydramnios sequence. No alterations in femoral shape and transverse growth of the metaphysis and diaphysis were noted in these fetuses. These results suggest that the main mechanical factor related to fetal bone modeling is muscular strength, while motion would be mainly involved in fetal joint development. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.