Background Transfusing blood products may induce inflammatory reactions within the vascular compartment potentially leading to a systemic inflammatory response. Experiments were designed to assess the inflammatory potential of different blood products in an endothelial cell-based in vitro model and to compare baseline levels of potentially activating substances in transfusion products. Methods The inflammatory response from pre-activated (endotoxin-stimulated) and non-activated endothelial cells as well as neutrophil endothelial transmigration in response to packed red blood cells (PRBC), platelet concentrates (PC) and fresh frozen plasma (FFP) was determined. Baseline inflammatory mediator and lipid concentrations in blood products were evaluated. Results Following incubation with all blood products, an increased inflammatory mediator release from endothelial cells was observed. Platelet concentrates, and to a lesser extent also FFP, caused the most pronounced response, which was accentuated in already pre-stimulated endothelial cells. Inflammatory response of endothelial cells as well as blood product-induced migration of neutrophils through the endothelium was in good agreement with the lipid content of the according blood product. Conclusion Within the group of different blood transfusion products both PC and FFP have a high inflammatory potential with regard to activation of endothelial cells. Inflammation upon blood product exposure is strongly accentuated when endothelial cells are pre-injured. High lipid contents in the respective blood products goes along with an accentuated inflammatory reaction from endothelial cells.