A desirable content-based image retrieval (CBIR) system would classify extracted image features to support some form of semantic retrieval. The Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, an intramural R&D division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), maintains an archive of digitized x-rays of the cervical and lumbar spine taken as part of the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II). It is our goal to provide shape-based access to the digitized x-rays including retrieval on automatically detected and classified pathology, e.g., anterior osteophytes. This is done using radius of curvature analysis along the anterior portion, and morphological analysis for quantifying protrusion regions along the vertebra boundary. Experimental results are presented for the classification of 704 cervical spine vertebrae by evaluating the features using a multi-layer perceptron (MLP) based approach. In this paper, we describe the design and current status of the content-based image retrieval (CBIR) system and the role of neural networks in the design of an effective multimedia information retrieval system.