Spatial solute concentration profiles resulting from in vivo microdialysis were measured in rat caudate-putamen by quantitative autoradiography. Radiolabeled sucrose was included in the dialysate, and the tissue concentration profile measured after infusions of 14 min and 61.5 min in an acute preparation. In addition, the changes in sucrose extraction fraction over time were followed in vivo and in a simple in vitro system consisting of 0.5% agarose. These experimental results were then compared with mathematical simulations of microdialysis in vitro and in vivo. Simulations of in vitro microdialysis agreed well with experimental results. In vivo, the autoradiograms of the tissue concentration profiles showed clear evidence of substantial differences between 14 and 61.5 min, even though the change in extraction fraction was relatively small over that period. Comparison with simulated results showed that the model substantially underpredicted the observed extraction fraction and overall amount of sucrose in the tissue. A sensitivity analysis of the various model parameters suggested a tissue extracellular volume fraction of approximately 40% following probe implantation. We conclude that the injury from probe insertion initially causes disruption of the blood-brain barrier in the vicinity of the probe, and this disruption leads to an influx of water and plasma constituents, causing a vasogenic edema.