Microdialysis--principles and applications for studies in animals and man

J Intern Med. 1991 Oct;230(4):365-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.1991.tb00459.x.


Microdialysis is a technique for sampling the chemistry of the individual tissues and organs of the body, and is applicable to both animal and human studies. The basic principle is to mimic the function of a capillary blood vessel by perfusing a thin dialysis tube implanted into the tissue with a physiological liquid. The perfusate is analysed chemically and reflects the composition of the extracellular fluid with time due to the diffusion of substances back and forth over the membrane. Microdialysis is thus a technique whereby substances may be both recovered from and supplied to a tissue. The most important features of microdialysis are as follows: it samples the extracellular fluid, which is the origin of all blood chemistry; it samples continuously for hours or days without withdrawing blood; and it purifies the sample and simplifies chemical analysis by excluding large molecules from the perfusate. However, the latter feature renders the technique unsuitable for sampling large molecules such as proteins. The technique has been extensively used in the neurosciences to monitor neurotransmitter release, and is now finding application in monitoring of the chemistry of peripheral tissues in both animal and human studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dialysis / instrumentation
  • Dialysis / methods*
  • Extracellular Space / chemistry*
  • Humans