Osteoid osteoma is a benign bone forming neoplasm that is characterized by its small size (less than 2 cm), self-limited growth, and the tendency to cause extensive reactive changes in the adjacent tissue. The lesion classically presents with severe pain at night that is dramatically relieved by NSAIDs. The tumor has been shown to express very high levels of prostaglandins, particularly PGE2 and PGI2. The high local levels of these prostaglandins are presumed to be the cause of the intense pain seen in patients with this lesion. One generally accepted form of treatment is the prolonged use of NSAIDs. Since the cyclooxygenases are thought to be the source of these prostaglandins, and the central target of NSAIDs, we evaluated the expression of cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in osteoid osteoma tissues from patients following surgery. In the 12 specimens examined we found that the tumor osteoblasts had strong immunohistochemical staining for COX-2, while the staining in the surrounding host osteoblasts in the reactive bone was scant. Significant COX-1 staining was also detected in both tumor and host osteoblasts. For comparison we examined the COX expression in human fracture callus, fibrous dysplasia, osteoblastoma, osteofibrous dysplasia, and myositis ossificans. With the exception of fracture callus, very limited amounts of COX-2 could be detected in these tissues. Taken together, we conclude that the increased production of prostaglandins by osteoid osteomas implicates that COX-2 is one of the mediators of this condition. These findings suggest that the newly selective COX-2 inhibitors could be used to more safely treat osteoid osteomas.