BackgroundTime-of-flight (TOF) PET technology determines a reduction in the noise and improves the reconstructed image quality in low count acquisitions, such as in overweight patients, allowing a reduction of administered activity and/or imaging time. However, international guidelines and recommendations on the 18F-fluoro-2-deoxyglucose (FDG) activity administration scheme are old or only partially account for TOF technology and advanced reconstruction modalities.The aim of this study was to optimize FDG whole-body studies on a TOF-PET/CT scanner by using a multivariate approach to quantify how physical figures of merit related to image quality change with acquisition/reconstruction/patient-dependent parameters in a phantom experiment.MethodsThe NEMA-IQ phantom was used to evaluate contrast recovery coefficient (CRC), background variability (BV) and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) as a function of changing emission scan duration (ESD), activity concentration (AC), target internal diameter (ID), target-background activity ratio (TBR) and body mass index (BMI). The phantom was filled with an average concentration of 5.3 kBq/ml of FDG solution and the spheres with TBR of 21.2, 8.8 and 5.0 in 3 different sessions. Images were acquired at varying background activity concentration from 5.1 to 1.3 kBq/ml, and images were reconstructed for ESD of 30–151 s per bed position with and without point spread function (PSF) correction. The parameters were all considered in a single analysis using multiple linear regression methods.ResultsAs expected, CRC depended only on sphere ID and on PSF application, while BV depended on sphere ID, ESD, AC and BMI of the phantom, in order of decreasing relevance. Noteworthy, ESD and AC resulted as the most significant predictors of CNR variability with a similar relevance, followed by the BMI of the patient and TBR of the lesion.ConclusionsAC and ESD proved to be effective tools in modulating CNR. ESD could be increased rather than AC to improve image quality in overweight/obese patients to fulfil ALARA principles.