The available pool of sodium channels, and thus cell excitability, is regulated by both fast and slow inactivation. In cardiac tissue, the requirement for sustained firing of long-duration action potentials suggests that slow inactivation in cardiac sodium channels may differ from slow inactivation in skeletal muscle sodium channels. To test this hypothesis, we used the macropatch technique to characterize slow inactivation in human cardiac sodium channels heterologously expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Slow inactivation was isolated from fast inactivation kinetically (by selectively recovering channels from fast inactivation before measurement of slow inactivation) and structurally (by modification of fast inactivation by mutation of IFM1488QQQ). Time constants of slow inactivation in cardiac sodium channels were larger than previously reported for skeletal muscle sodium channels. In addition, steady-state slow inactivation was only 40% complete in cardiac sodium channels, compared to 80% in skeletal muscle channels. These results suggest that cardiac sodium channel slow inactivation is adapted for the sustained depolarizations found in normally functioning cardiac tissue. Complete slow inactivation in the fast inactivation modified IFM1488QQQ cardiac channel mutant suggests that this impairment of slow inactivation may result from an interaction between fast and slow inactivation.