Fluid flow back along the outer surface of a needle (backflow) can be a significant problem during the direct infusion of drugs into brain tissues for procedures such as convection-enhanced delivery (CED). This study evaluates the effects of needle insertion speed (0.2 and 1.8 mm/s) as well as needle diameter and flow rate on the extent of backflow and local damage to surrounding tissues. Infusion experiments were conducted on a transparent tissue phantom, 0.6% (w/v) agarose hydrogel, to visualize backflow. Needle insertion experiments were also performed to evaluate local damage at the needle tip and to back out the prestress in the surrounding media for speed conditions where localized damage was not excessive. Prestress values were then used in an analytical model of backflow. At the higher insertion speed (1.8 mm/s), local insertion damage was found to be reduced and backflow was decreased. The compressive prestress at the needle-tissue interface was estimated to be approximately constant (0.812 kPa), and backflow distances were similar regardless of needle gauge (22, 26, and 32 gauge). The analytical model underestimated backflow distances at low infusion flow rates and overestimated backflow at higher flow rates. At the lower insertion speed (0.2 mm/s), significant backflow was measured. This corresponded to an observed accumulation of material at the needle tip which produced a gap between the needle and the surrounding media. Local tissue damage was also evaluated in excised rat brain tissues, and insertion tests show similar rate-dependent accumulation of tissue at the needle tip at the lower insertion speed. These results indicate that local tissue damage and backflow may be avoided by using an appropriate insertion speed.