In this paper, we further develop the general theory of microdialysis by extending the linear model of Bungay et al. to provide a theoretical basis for in vitro and in vivo microdialysis. Specifically, we considered the effect of active clearance processes on in vivo microdialysis, and thereby elaborated the theory of Benveniste et al. to endogenous compounds. We examined the use of steady state tissue diffusion resistance with negligible clearance processes to interpret microdialysis data. The influence of the tissue properties on the in vitro and in vivo recoveries in dual-probe microdialysis was analyzed and we simulated the effect of the operating parameters on dual probe microdialysis performance. We estimated that the minimum clearance rate constant detectable by microdialysis in a quasi-steady state is about 5.5 x 10(-5) s(-1). This minimum rate constant establishes a criterion, below which inhibition of the active clearance processes does not show detectable influences on the microdialysis extraction efficiency.