Genetic variations in cardiac ion channels have been implicated not only as the causes of inherited arrhythmic syndromes, but also as genetic risk factors for some acquired arrhythmias. To elucidate the potential roles of genetic polymorphisms of the alpha subunit of the voltage-gated sodium channel type V (SCN5A) in cardiac rhythm disturbance, the entire SCN5A coding exons and their flanking introns were sequenced in 166 Japanese arrhythmic patients and 232 healthy controls. We detected 69 genetic variations, including 54 novel ones. Out of the 12 novel nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), p.Leu1988Arg was found at a frequency of 0.015. The other 11 SNPs were rare (0.001), with 6 found in arrhythmic patients and 5 in healthy controls. The frequency of a novel intronic SNP, c.703+130G>A, was significantly higher in the patients than in the controls, suggesting this SNP is associated with an unknown risk factor for arrhythmia. Following linkage disequilibrium analysis, the haplotype structure of SCN5A was inferred using high-frequency SNPs. The frequency of the haplotype harbouring both p.Leu1988Arg and the common SNP p.His558Arg (haplotype GG) was significantly lower in the patients than in the controls. This finding suggests that this haplotype (GG) might have been positively selected in the controls because of its protective effect against arrhythmias. This study provides fundamental information necessary to elucidate the effect of genetic variations in SCN5A on channel function and cardiac rhythm in Japanese, and probably in the Asian population.