The assessment of extent and severity of IBD is crucial for directing treatment decisions. Clinical symptoms alone are neither sensitive nor specific for the assessment of lesion severity in IBD. Cross-sectional imaging techniques, as well as small-bowel capsule endoscopy (SBCE) and device-assisted enteroscopy, have a high accuracy for assessing the extent of mucosal lesions, and are reliable alternatives to ileocolonoscopy. New endoscopic techniques and devices are emerging for improved follow-up and surveillance. In this Review, we discuss different imaging techniques that are used to assess IBD activity and to survey patients with IBD, and highlight the latest developments in each area. Moreover, technical improvements and new tools that aim to measure intestinal fibrosis, postoperative recurrence, activity indices and endoscopic features are analysed. All of these imaging techniques are aimed at changing the paradigm from symptom-driven to lesion-driven treatment of IBD.